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June 29, 2022 8:00 am
I want to do two things here today I want to first of all I want to address some unhelpful approaches about reading Scripture and then give you what I hope will be some helpful ideas that you could run with all heard the old joke goes how delete elephant in the answer, of course, one vitamin time hello I'm building like welcoming you back to the truth pulpit with Don green founding pastor of truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio today as he continues teaching God's people. God's word.
Don will show us that beginning a lifelong study of the Bible doesn't have to be a gargantuan task. If will just apply a few key baseline principles and study methods and done, it really is important to start off on the right foot when it comes to studying and understanding the Bible isn't all that's exactly right Bill you know there are people who say that the Bible is hard to understand and yeah many of the people that say that have never even made an effort to study the Bible or even to read it cover to cover one time.
How can you criticize a book as being difficult to read. If you haven't even tried to read it for all that it says both that you, my friend. I have good news for you.
Today's broadcast is going to give you practical hints to get started in reading the Bible and growing in your understanding of it. Whether you're new to Scripture or a longtime student of it. This broadcast will help you handle God's word well and so and stay with us today on the truth pulpit.
Thanks, Don, and friend. Let's begin today's lesson right now on the truth pulpit.
What I want to do is to give you some things that you can take and run with it. This is not the final answer of anything. This is just something for you to take adaptive use for your own purposes, but to give you something to put a little bit of shoe leather on what we've said here rather than leaving it in a in around of principal without giving you something to help you know how to go forward someone to give you two unhelpful approaches again just trying to dial in a little bit more closely to get the radar zeroed in laser Dan on on something that will hit a target for you. That's what were looking to do today what is one unhelpful approach to avoid an almost all of this year, I think, is born out of my own personal experience over time. Over the years of being a Christian. A lot of failure some things that have worked for me and so that's kind of what informs this here today. First of all, what is unhelpful, don't do this random reading of the Bible random reading of the Bible. What I mean by that is is don't do this with your Bible. Don't just open it up at random and what or wherever your finger falls that's where you decide to read forth for today that's not that's not helpful and end to pick up verse you know people do that with kind of a mystical superstitious idea that whatever their eyes fall on that.
That's the word of God that they have for them on that day. That's not that's not right.
And when you connect this to the other things we said you can see why that would be wrong because I violates the the interpretive principle of reading Scripture in context.
We don't just opened up and randomly pick up a verse I mean look let's say that that was your approach and that's what you wanted to do and you are really you are down and discouraged in you opened up your you opened up your Bible and you read Matthew 27 verse five and you you forgot about historical versus didactic material and you read that Judas went away and hanged himself, is that God's word for you and your depressed state is that is at God's guidance and lenience for what no that's absurd and you recognize that that's absurd, but understand that the the randomness of falling on that particular verses is no different. The principal shows that you can't read the Bible randomly. It wasn't meant to be like that. It's not some kind of of cheap eightball that you buy that has eight answers to questions that you answer were not to treat Scripture that way and so don't read it at random on this the assumption that God's going to speak to you that way that's not a mature approach to Scripture. Understand this, that and, by contrast, that that understanding Scripture becoming a student of the Bible takes time.
There are no shortcuts. And so don't go for superstitious shortcuts that will only delay things and lead you away from the truth.
Understand that you should read the Bible in a in a systematic way will have some things for you to do that with.
But don't do that.
Don't open the Bible at random. It would be better not to open the Bible at all than to treat it like it was some kind of Rubiks cube that you're going to play with. We we honor God's word. We respect God's word too much to treated in such a shallow fashion.
Now another variation that I remember keenly doing because I was almost trained to do that says as a young Christian. Another variation is is where you you read a chapter of the Bible one day and then the next day you you go to a completely different passage from another part of the Bible the next day and so I have I have journals that I wrote where I was doing this under a particular method of discipleship that I was going through. And you look at it and in the readings were completely random. It I'm making this up. I didn't go back in exactly look at. It is like I read from Ruth chapter 3 and then I went to Matthew 16 and then it was first Chronicles 7 or something like that and just bouncing around like a pinball going nowhere. That's not a good way to read Scripture.
Again, it is not reading Scripture in context. Now let me tell you why people do that. Let me tell you what they're probably looking for as they as they do it. They want to shortcut.
They view God's word is something to help them in that day and so there are those so they're looking desperately for something that will that will stand out a life that will flash and warm their hearts in and say all this is for today.
Well, that's not it.
That's not a good way to approach Scripture. Scripture is given for higher purposes than to simply give you a little little emotional Bob to get you through the day. That's not that's putting yourself at the center of Scripture rather than putting the author's intent at the Scripture and saying I need to understand this and recognizing that reverence for God's word means it's going to take some time to develop. You know there's there's a reason why college degrees take two years four years Masters degree total of six years or seven years doctorates even longer is because the world's education system realizes that there is a sustained education that is necessary to reach a valuable goal. Well, we don't need, seven, eight, nine, 10 years before we can begin to understand Scripture because Scripture is clear and we have the Holy Spirit, but in terms of what your goal is with Bible study.
This is what you want your goal to be. You want your goal to grow so that you can become a more mature student of God's word than you are now and randomly choosing things at random simply to to get something that makes you feel good at the moment. That's not a mature way to deal with God's word. We need to respect it.
More than that. And so that random approach fails to take concern itself with the question, what did the biblical writer mean when he said that rather is asking the question what helps me today. You need to recognize the distinction and give yourself over to a respect for God's word that says I'm aiming my life in understanding what the Bible means by what it says rather and and let let that encourage me as a secondary benefit rather than saying this book is here to serve my emotional desires.
There's more to it than that. That's not helpful.
Don't read the Bible in that random way.
Now, on the other end of the spectrum, here's another unhelpful approach and that is this it is to set unrealistic goals and to to try things that are unrealistic. This is the complete opposite end of the spectrum to what I just described. A weekend like this comes with certain built-in risk certain dangers. Maybe you could say that are that that could cut against your long-term spiritual well-being. The temptation is is that is is to set goals and to have other people to find things for you about what you should do in a way that's really not realistic for you to obtain and listen. Having no idea it was very tempting to ask people to question and I don't want an answer.
I don't want you razor. I don't want you to raise your hand but the it would be very interesting to know, first of all, do you read the Bible on a consistent daily basis are at least 56 times a week do you get is a regular part of your life and another thing that would be interesting to to know was a question that I've already forgotten before I can get it out of my lips.
Let's just say there was only one question that I had in mind made. Maybe that maybe the answer. Maybe the question is this is is how many of you have started something with a desire to study Scripture and you had a big plan laid out and you got into it to three weeks and you failed and you decided. Besides, I can't do it anymore. Well look there's there's there's reasons for that. But that happens in the pool of an emotional moment or you know there's there's a lot of information given and you want to act upon it, that desire to act upon. It is good but that the thing that I think that is really important to avoid is is setting up a goal that you can't keep that that's not helpful that's not profitable. And here's the thing.
If you presently with a pattern of consistently reading Scripture already. You are probably not going to succeed with an overly ambitious plan to begin with. Think about it like this with me if you would runners train to run a marathon over time they they start out a maybe they run a mile or two. They build up their endurance to go five or six and then 10 or 12 and you know then 20.
And then there ready to run that 26.2 miles but you build up to it over time.
Not one of us could just jump off the couch having just finished off our third bag of potato chips because the ballgame was over and then we say okay want to go run a marathon. That's not going to work your hardly going to get out of the driveway before you come back and say you know there was 1/4 bag of cheddar and sour cream that I might as well finish and all pick this up tomorrow you understand all of that you understand all of that will realize that that the developing spiritual disciplines is something that you grow into new Dubai little acts of faithfulness. Over time, rather than saying I'm going to go run a marathon and your spouse looks at you and say you're 40 pounds overweight, you're not running any marathon you're not ready to do that. Let's start with walking around the block and see how that could well listen and I debated whether to do this but it needs it needs to be said because I care about your souls. And I want you to succeed going forward here. There is a a system of Bible study that suggested by outstanding men outstanding men that suggest something like this. The ideas is that you should pick a Bible book and you should read that same book every day for 30 days and then while you're doing that you should you should read through the Old Testament Genesis to Malachi be reading through that on a daily basis. When you finish the 30 days with the one book then go to a large section read like seven chapters of the gospel for a period of time 30 days and no after three years you gone through it all and you'll really know the Bible. Look, that's a great plan that that that would be awesome if you would do that I experience teaches me for my own failures and from that of others that I know that if tried that that that turns out not to be too realistic that what happens is that people find that life doesn't necessarily care to conform to your daily Bible reading plan in that manner and vacations coming. People get sick or you're caring for elderly parents and there's just not the opportunity to do that and and and what he would what you would aspire after turns out to not be realistic because life forces you not to and why you set the goal. You have to set it aside and then you feel kinda guilty and like a failure in it.
I don't think that's I don't think that's spiritually helpful and to try something like that to aim that did like that's what you're going to do if if you're not already in the habit of daily Bible reading. I would encourage you to set your sights a little bit lower. That might be a perfect goal, but if it's unattainable than what's perfect about it, and rather than rather than naming that which would impress your friends and pastor, why not name your case, why not aim yourself at something that's good and attainable that you can sustain over time. That's you know to me that just seems to be a way to go.
And so, collectively, corporately, let me just say this is what we want to do here today as we want to. What were kind of viewing this corporately my mind again, my assumption is is that some of you are not consistently reading the Bible. All I know what the other question was it finally popped into my mind. You think I was stalling just till it came back I would be interested to know.
Again, no show of hands, but I'd be interested to know how many of you have actually read the entire Bible you have read through the Bible cover to cover, like Genesis to Revelation. Or you followed a pattern were different pattern where different alternate readings and it took you all the way through the Bible. I'm sure that some of you have. I'm guessing that many of you haven't well what I want to do is I want to meet you at that level ground. I want to meet everybody there and say you know let's let's save the let's say the grandiose plans for another time in the future right now. Let's meet together as brothers and sisters in Christ, meet together in this living room setting, so to speak, say, where can we get started and start moving in the right direction and not despise a more modest goal because it's not so great doesn't seem so lofty it doesn't seem so challenging and demanding not to despise it because you know not to despise the good something good because it's not perfect and so that's what we want to do here.
That's what's informing my perspective here, and for some people. What I'm about to propose this was going to seem elementary, but for most of you are at least many of you, I suspect, what were going to have here is a step forward and that's what I want for you. I want you to take a step forward. You don't have to run a marathon. Let's get up off of the couch and take a walk around the block and start there and if we start there and then we can grow from that we can build on that momentum. That's my perspective on it and so what I'm about to say is this just read little recap some unhelpful approaches don't do the random reading and don't set unrealistic goals. Be mindful of where you're at now is you set goals going forward. Now here's the deal. What I'm about to describe.
It's not a prophetic pronouncement.
This is not what I'm about to tell you is not.
It is not not not not realize all those double negatives risk canceling it out in the English grammar. But you know what I mean.
You appreciated the dinner: as in Greek. You can multiply negatives and it just emphasizes it doesn't negate each other what I'm about to say is not thus saith the Lord that this is not that's not the spirit of it all. This is this is thus saith Don that's all. And it's not the final word on this. It's not the only way to do it. These are just things that have helped me over time, and not only that, and in this I hear this I hear this comment often I will. I want you to know that these are things that helped me and that I used before I ever became a pastor when my schedule was like yours is now. And you know you're up at six in your home at seven at night and 1213 hrs. you know there's not just not a lot of time to sit down with 10 commentaries and you know sort through a whole. You know complicated passage I get the fact that some things can be unrealistic, so I'm trying to speak from that kind of experience. These are things that have helped me these are things that I have done. These are things that have have been useful to me and I think that they'll help you to that's that that's the modest spirit in which I offer these things to you here today. I know that what I'm about to describe to you is absolutely attainable and that's what I want for you so let's move to our second point, some helpful ideas I gave you the first some unhelpful approaches will hear some some helpful ideas. I think I have a total of 33 helpful ideas for you. First of all is this use what you already have. Use what you already have. Okay. And so don't start by saying okay I got to go out and buy 10 books that I've never had never seen and just go on a reference of somebody that I've never met and I'm going to buy those books, you know, if you do that will make the publisher happy the author will get his royalties, but you probably won't do a whole lot with that kind of material. If you just start out like that start with what you have. Jesus said he was faithful in the little thing will also be faithful and much look to be faithful with what is in front of you now and start their rather than trying to immediately become somebody that you're not so here are some ideas on how you could do that to use what you already have. Here's one element. Let me just say this in God's providence and by your own choice. You attend a teaching church are on our emphasis in this ministry is to teach God's word and and that's where you find yourself well let let your churches pulpit help shape some direction for you. This is very simple.
Periodically read the Bible book that were preaching from on Sunday mornings. You know were preaching or teaching through Ephesians what it what a great thing. It would be if if once a week every other day twice a month pics the frequency I don't care.
You just read through the book of Ephesians and you The message of Ephesians fresh in your mind and and and that the words of the text are fresh in your mind when you come in to sit down on a Sunday morning while you're doing that periodically and things start to stick from where you're from your own reading and from the preaching of the word and then the book of Ephesians starts to really build into your life rather than just coming in cold and you know you're trying to remember what was said the prior Sunday, that's perfectly attainable Ephesians.
You can read that in 15 minutes. That's one place to start. Another thing that you could do is read the midweek text before you come in.
You know who reinforces to me and who I was thinking about as I made this point little Sophia Dragoon seventh grade talking about our children's ministry.
Want to know what her children's ministry is at truth Community Church will here's an idea of it. Here's what happens.
I talking to Sophie on the step during our last Sunday evening fellowship and I I'm sorry she's not here to say this would probably embarrass her for did said Sophia how you doing spiritually see them doing really good that little sweet spirit that she's got.
I said yeah tell me about it and and she said well, and I'm reading the Bible know one of the things that I do is is I went. When you're preaching through the Psalms. I read that song before before I come on Tuesday night and so so I'm reading that Psalm and then I hear you preach on and it really helps me half a thousand. That's that was just so sweet and that's so perfect and for you here today that so attainable to just read the word before it's preached on so that it set in your mind. If 1/7 grader can do that, you can surely do that to and that's a simple thing to do that will make the preaching of God's word in your chosen church more effective in your life.
So start there and just engage your heart and what your church's teaching well you know that's a good place to start. That's one way to go about it. Now for those of you that drive a lot. Or maybe you're a busy mom and you don't have a lot of time to just sit down and read and you like to listen to sermons good for you. That's a good thing to do.
I assume that you're familiar with the the ministry of John MacArthur good. Keep listening to John. You should also check out another teacher that maybe are not as familiar with some of you are, but the online sermon library of S. Lewis Johnson is a teaching resource that you should take advantage of.
S. Lewis, LEWIS late pastor former pastor and seminary professor at believers Chapel in Dallas. His doctrine is consistent with ours. Although his style is different from mine. He is a trustworthy source that I respect you can feed yourself. God's word by going to trustworthy men like that and listening to them as other things are going on, let me just say one other thing is your is your choosing who you listen to and you can't listen to everybody.
Let me just say look for them in terms of who you listen to look for Bible teachers rather than people who are simply commenting on current events are simply focused on single issue matters look for someone who's teaching you the full counsel of God.
In order for you to be a student of God. You know today's headlines are going to be tomorrow's newspaper.
The wraps up the dead fish and so keep in mind that you're looking for an eternal perspective rooted in the whole counsel of God rather than somebody who simply giving you commentary that you probably already agree with on modern political issues or whatever, so use what you already have.
You need an eternal perspective from the whole counsel of God, not simply view on headlines which are going to change tomorrow that's done green bringing our study to close for right now you're on the truth pulpit friend if you'd like to hear today's message again or you'd like to share it with a friend. Just go to the truth. Pulpit.com again that's the truth. Pulpit.com will continue in our series called effective Bible study next time with part two of today's lesson I built right over and you can join us that is done. Green continues teaching God's people. God's word truthful