Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
We are supposed to be disciples. Discipleship is a mark of a healthy church. If we want to be true disciples, we must simply love God and we’ll know what it means to be disciples. Be a disciple. Discipleship is good.
You’ve heard these statements before. They go along the same lines as, “We need to love God,” or, “We need to be godly,” or, “We need to be good Christians.” These are all true statements, but – at best – are greatly impractical and – at worst – are greatly discouraging. Ambiguous statements with no specific instruction will never accomplish anything.
So, what is a disciple? The word used in the New Testament is μαθητής (mathetes). It describes someone who “engages in learning through instruction from another” and “who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or particular set of views” (BDAG 609).
A disciple is someone who passionately pursues something or someone in a specific subject field. A passing interest in pulmonology does not make one a pulmonologist. We know this. A passing interest in Christianity does not make one a Christian.
If we’re there every time the doors are open but our Bible knowledge is lacking, we are not disciples. If we claim the title “Christian” but the foundation of our faith is a political viewpoint, we are not disciples.
A disciple passionately studies. A disciple is an exegete. Disciples passionately incorporate and live out the teachings of scripture, which they get from their study. If we are as enthusiastic about our faith as we are about our hobbies, we are disciples. If we want to be called disciples, we must also be considered dedicated students of the word and of the One.
Click above to hear a sample of our latest project. We’re working on a new program which will air on the Gospel Broadcasting Network (watch GBN here) in the future. The premise is just as the program title suggests: “the Bible is not boring!” It is exciting and fulfilling to drill down and study God’s Word. Each episode will follow the same format, a general topic which the four of us (Gary, Dale, Carl, and myself) will break down and discuss. Our aim is to help encourage Christians and open a door for those who may be searching for God’s truth out there. This first episode explores how to approach the Bible itself. We hope you enjoy! –Neal
Given his job, the Ethiopian of Acts 8 was one of that country’s most important people. Yet, he was more than important. He was very religious, apparently a proselyte (convert) to the Jewish faith. He didn’t restrict his religion to the assemblies. He read his Bible even when he was going about his secular tasks (Acts 8:28). Though he could not enter the assembly of the Lord (Deut. 23:1), he made the long and grueling trip from northern Africa to Palestine and was returning home. Many of us are familiar with the Old Testament passage he was reading when Philip joined him in his chariot. Reading Acts 8:32-33, we recognize the place as Isaiah 53:7-8. The Eunuch was trying to find out about who Isaiah wrote about, “of himself or of some other man” (Acts 8:34). Philip preached Jesus to him and he became a Christian (Acts 8:35-39).
Those are essentially the facts. Yet, I wonder how coincidental it was that the Eunuch was reading from that part of Old Testament scripture. This African official likely had a scroll containing the entire prophecy of Isaiah, which was not divided into the individual chapters like they are today. It would seem that the context in which Isaiah 53 occurs would be of particular interest to this man. Flip forward a few chapters to Isaiah 56. Isaiah is telling foreigners and eunuchs not to look down on themselves (3-5).
This official of Candace was very likely not some hopeless non-Jew looking for a crumb from the Jews’ table. He had the great hope and promise of Scripture. Perhaps this portion of Isaiah was of particular motivation and inspiration to him. For Philip to explain that the time of that prophecy had now been fulfilled, that access to this promise was now available, certainly led the Eunuch to urgently respond and enthusiastically react. Jesus was the One referenced in Isaiah 53, but he (the Eunuch) was the one referenced in Isaiah 56. No, not just him, but all like him–one from the “all nations” of Isaiah 56:7 who could reap the benefits brought by the “Sin-bearing Servant” of Isaiah 53 and the one who would “sprinkle many nations” (52:15).
I hope that you read your Bible with the same hunger and expectation. Perhaps there are portions that bring you greater hope and expectation, that speak with greater poignancy to your life’s circumstances. The Bible is a book filled with wonderful, relevant promises. Trust them. Let them bear you along through the rough spots of life. God designed the Bible to be a book of hope and inspiration, but it cannot do us any good unless and until we consult it! Find yourself in the Bible!
Maybe you have resolved repeatedly to become a better, more faithful Bible student, person of prayer, or simply one who truly desires to build a closer relationship with God. While a lot of that will be personal and peculiar to you as an individual, you may lack direction about how to get started or give yourself the best chance to succeed in that goal. Perhaps these few suggestions can prove helpful to strengthening your daily connection with your Creator.
- Adjust your wake up time. 15 to 30 minutes head start will prove the most vital moments of your day.
- Find a quiet, solitary place. Distraction can equal detraction.
- Study and pray with pen and paper or computer nearby. This will aid specificity and memory.
- Do not rush. Better a paragraph or chapter pored over than ten chapters glossed over.
- Take advantage of the commute. Pray through it or play the Bible on audio, if you can.
- Pick a book or topic of interest and drill down. Pick it for its relevance to your weakness, need, ignorance, or curiosity. Drink it in deliberately and carefully.
- Be specific and transparent in your prayers. In the solitude of prayer, drop all pretense, denial, and pride. He knows it all anyway.
- Always seek application in the Bible text you are reading. This is not a history lesson or academic exercise. This is spiritual food, armor, and survival.
- Create a list of ways you can enact the principles you read from Scripture. See yourself in the text of Scripture, and challenge yourself to think, say, do, and be what God desires of you.
- Ask questions of the text. Don’t pass over what you don’t understand. Don’t skim the surface. Mine for meaning.
- Build a prayer list. Challenge yourself and add people that many others may overlook in your local circle—widows, little children, new Christians, struggling folks, those facing an anniversary of loss, leadership, missionaries, non-Christians where you work and play, the poor, etc. This ever-expanding prayer list will bless lives in ways you won’t know here on earth.
- Mean what you say. When you tell someone you’ll pray for them, have integrity. Make an honest effort (write it down, put it in your phone) and honor your word. Ask the people you encounter how you might pray for them, then do it.
- Review. Revisit prayer lists or notes from Bible study periodically. Make it live on through reflection.
- Pray for what to study and study prayer. You will find that these two spiritual strength-building exercises are interconnected. This is about relationship with God. Spare no exertion.
Consider these “jump starters.” You will come up with more and far better ways to help yourself to a closer walk with God. These days, we’re being pulled in every direction and most lead away from Him. You will have to be deliberate to swim against the tide. May God bless you as you let Him bless you through a vibrant devotional life!
One of the last great periods of spiritual revival in Judah’s history before Babylonian Captivity occurred during the reign of Jehoshaphat. This king is praised for seeking God, following His commandments, and not acting like Israel (2 Ch. 17:3-4). Jehoshaphat was greatly blessed by these decisions, he took pride in the Lord’s ways and sought to eradicate idolatry (5-6). In the third year of his reign, Jehoshaphat sent his officials, the priests, and the Levites throughout Judah. What we read in 2 Chronicles 17:9 is exemplary for us today.
- They “taught.” Men of varying backgrounds, abilities, personalities, and occupations united in the valuable enterprise of teaching. In all, 16 men are named as those who were tasked with this important job. Whatever we don’t know about them, we do know they were teachers. Their work was so important that God saw fit to include them by name in His Book! Certainly He still holds knowledgeable, diligent teachers in high regard today. What a thrill it must be for Him to see His children willing and able to teach (cf. 1 Pe. 3:14-15).
- They taught “in Judah…among the people.” What was Judah? It was the place where God’s people resided. Strong churches have good teachers teaching them. There is a resounding benefit when people get together and are subjected to healthy, beneficial teaching. As it was then, so it is now.
- They taught in Judah “having the book of the law of the Lord with them.” Jehoshaphat wanted to ensure the spiritual literacy of his subjects, knowing God wanted that, too. God still longs for His people to know, show, and grow (2 Pe. 3:18). Too often, our teaching can lack a biblical focus. We do not need more “what I thinks” and “what happened to me’s.” We need more rich teaching from “the book of the law of the Lord.”
Despite some later foolish and even sinful choices, Jehoshaphat was on target to send teachers for Judah’s benefit. In the end, he instituted needed, helpful reforms, and relied on God in prayer. He fell short, but perhaps it was his anchor in the law of God that kept him from drifting away from Him. Our hope and future is tied to how faithfully we follow God, but we must know what God wants to do that. And we can only know what God wants by knowing His Word. God bless the teachers that help us to do just that!