Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Real & Lasting Change

A short while back I heard a pastor speak to a group of people about Heaven and being prepared for it.  In his closing time he spoke about an individual who he believed saw Jesus just prior to their death.  It was truly a powerful moment in his delivery; however, I left with a troubled and saddened heart.  As pastors, we are very privileged to handle the very Word of God and to represent it in all love and truth.  I'm unaware of anywhere in Scripture where believers are told that they will see Christ this side of eternity; It will not be until we see Him in Heaven one day or He returns for His own (according to His Word).  I believe that we can certainly hear God speak from within through His Spirit that He has given us and I even believe that God can choose to use His heavenly host of angels to minister to us on earth.  However, I believe the pastor's comments, although powerful, were Biblically incorrect.  I imagine one could say that I am being too critical; although, God places high value on His word and I want to represent Him and His character in all honesty.

The writer of Hebrews speaks as if the Word of God can stand alone apart from any crafty psychology or tear jerking stories.  Please understand I'm not against illustrations that unfold truth and help us grasp the original meaning.  I'm concerned that we forget that God's Word can do what nothing else can.  The writer says in Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."  This is POWERFUL and comforting!  As a preacher of the Gospel I believe that my call is to be faithful to the text and help explain what God is saying.  Many of us can encourage others to change but I believe that God is the one who brings real, lasting change.  We can truly trust God's Word to stand alone apart from adding our good psychology about what we might feel about the matter.  God's Word will stand the test of time and not return void; all we are called to do is to be faithful to what it truly says as we communicate it.

I'm blessed to be leading a large group of high school students in a Life Group.  We are beginning to study another book, the book of Acts and have recently studied 1 & 2 Corinthians.  They are developing good study practices for inductive Bible study that will be used for a life-time.  Allow me to recommend some key questions you should consider when studying the Word of God:
  • Who wrote this and to whom was it written?
  • When was it written?
  • What were the issues at hand and why was it written?
  • What was happening at the time that this was written--in the community or church?
  • Where was it written and what is known about the place?
  • What might you be able to find about about the geography / typography?
  • What is happening in the preceding and following chapters?
  • Is it consistent to other Scripture?
  • Does my interpretation make sense as it relates to the surrounding text?
  • How does this apply to me or should it?
I truly want to encourage pastors and lay people who teach the Word of God through Bible studies, in the Sunday school hour, in casual conversation, or from the pulpit, that we represent the Word of God with honesty and integrity.  This brings about the type of real and lasting change that honors Him!
Book Recommendation:   Grasping God's Word:  A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, written by Scott Duvall & Daniel Hayes

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