I’m sure you are like me when it comes near to month end (pay day). I needed to purchase something this afternoon and found my wallet was totally empty. I meant to go to an auto bank today, but chose to do some gardening. My dad always told us children when we asked for something near the end of the month that the blue bird has not yet flown (He was paid on the 28th and pay day was the blue bird flying). Well, no cash on hand … no problem.
Out with the cellphone–I opened the bank app. It told me to enter my details (which was strange as I had already done that and saved the information months ago). Then it said to me that I need to visit the bank to register my ‘new’ cellphone as this phone is different to my ‘old’ phone. Then it clicked. You’ll remember me saying I backed up my phone and then restored the phone’s settings. The bank app was restored, but the data was deleted. Now that app cannot work until I have it re-registered and the app reset by the bank. A hassle on the one side, but great on the other side should the phone be lost or stolen. Opening that cellphone and bank app was very much like opening the Bible and not knowing what to do with it or how to use it. I want to speak into two environments today.
The first is the pastor teacher (preacher/evangelist) environment. Apart from having good commentaries to help you understand the basics of the Bible, a pastor needs other helps to enable him to dig deeper and be better equipped to expound the Word of God to the people of God. Although it is hard work, he would need aids like the Hebrew, Greek and English Lexicons. These could be used with the Hebrew and Greek Interlinear Bible and Original Language Word Study books. Very often, the Bible loses meaning in translation, requiring the preacher to dig deep into the text or passage to find the meaning … because as you are aware, every verse of the Bible has only one meaning. It cannot mean ‘this’ for one and ‘that’ for the other!
God is not a God of confusions or bipolar. His Word is Truth and every verse and every passage and every chapter … in context … has one solid unchangeable message. This is the reason churches or groups need pastors who have studied at a reputable Bible college (or university) so that the pulpit teaches and preaches the Word of God to the Glory of God and for the benefit of the People of God. One of the most alarming facts relates to the churches that come into existence overnight. Often these churches are led by people (well-meaning, sincere, saved people I hope) who have had no formal Theological Education. Irrespective of how gifted they are, they will lead their people into error without a solid–and, might I add, reformed and evangelical–theological education.
This is why you, when looking for a church, need to read their statement of faith and constitution and ask questions about how they view the Bible (Do they believe the Bible to be inerrant, inspired and authoritative?). Go through their membership class and evaluate it against what the Bible is teaching. Always remember the purpose of the church. It exists to educate (equip) the saints for service and prepare them for heaven … and evangelize the lost. Far too many get into all sorts of alternative things such as politics, social action, social welfare, etc. However good and needy some of these things are, they must never come before a teaching and evangelistic ministry. The second is the individual Christian (or family) environment. I am aware that all too often people are told and encouraged to read their Bible and pray once they make a commitment to Jesus Christ and attend church services and/or Bible Studies. Personally, I believe this is where the wheels come of well-meaning and sincere people who have committed their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. A good pastor-teacher can only do so much!
His sermons and Bible Studies might be excellent, but that is something like only having breakfast on Sundays and supper (or breakfast) on one week day. Even if you add daily devotions, you are adding breakfast for each day of the week. What about all the other lunches and suppers throughout the week? I know you understand I am speaking spiritually here. You see, to round off the spiritual diet for stable, thinking, intentional Christianity, you need to dig and explore further.
Does your church have a Book Table Ministry? If they do, what do they sell? Without seeming to be arrogant or a-know-it all, so many “Christian Bookshops” sell books written by authors, who themselves are in a spiritual and theological wilderness! To put it bluntly … most books written ought to be filed in file 13 or on a heresy shelf. Forgive me if you think I am being hard and harsh but what you read infiltrates your mind … and most people believe what they read without being critical … without measuring what they read against what the Bible is saying in its context!
So I want to encourage you to buy good reformed commentaries and books written by reputable reformed and evangelical authors. It will not hurt your budget too much over the long distance when you buy A New Bible Dictionary, a Bible Concordance, a Handbook to the Bible, a Bible Atlas, a Survey of the Bible and perhaps a few books on the Doctrines of the Bible. You need to add books on missions, especially those written by or about those who started modern Christian Missions into Africa, China, Japan, South America, etc. Books on prayer, marriage, sickness … plus you cannot not have John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress or even his The Holy War.
Remember though … having them on the shelf is useless unless you study them. If books are displayed as decorations they become like that banking app on my phone. There is money in the bank, but because the app does not work I cannot get access to the money. To make your Bible work you need to use good material, solidly based upon and expounding the Bible carefully, understandably and accurately.
1 Thess 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.
Dear God, thank You for making so many good books and helps available to me to help me grow in the faith and become a thinking Christian like the Bereans were and who examined the Scriptures as they were taught. Amen.