Ligonier Ministries has a video series of a Pilgrims Progress survey done by a great world renown scholar named Dr. Derek Thomas (a teacher at Reformed Theological Seminary). He has done his homework and this is a great opportunity that I know everyone will love. There is also a study guide that I will be handing out week by week that you can even fill out while you watch the video. The video is about 25 minutes every week and we can follow it by a short discussion on relevant topics as time permits.”
Since this may be a new concept for some readers, it is important to consider this a bit further. Was the garden the earth’s first temple? Was the garden a special dwelling place of God among men on the earth? The text of Genesis 2 and 3 does not use those words to describe the garden of Eden. But as we have already seen, it does utilize language used elsewhere in Scripture that describes God’s presence in Israel’s tabernacle. Does the Bible look back upon the garden of Eden and indicate that it was, in fact, a temple, a sanctuary, the first special dwelling place of God on earth among men? I think it does.
Consider Ezekiel 28:11-19, especially verses 13-14, 16, and 18…
Furthermore, I had the opportunity to interview the author about this book. You may listen to the first part of that interview here[part 2 here] or below (we get into Adam and the temple around the 27 minute mark):
Many years ago, I wrote a book that was first titled The Psychology of Atheism, then later retitled If There Is a God, Why Are There Atheists? In it, I included a chapter on the nakedness motif that we find in sacred Scripture and in Western philosophy. I did a word study of gumnos, which is the Greek for “naked.” In the garden of Eden, the man and the woman were naked but without shame until sin came into their lives. The very first psychological self-awareness of guilt and shame was an uncomfortable awareness of nudity. Since then, human beings have been the only creatures who have adorned and covered themselves with artificial garments, because it is built into our fallen humanity to equate shame and humiliation with nakedness.
Throughout the pages of Scripture, when God speaks of bringing judgment against the guilty, He does it by exposing their sin and stripping them of their clothes. A prime example of this comes from the book of the prophet Amos. Amos gives the Lord’s list of transgressions by Moab, Judah, Israel, and so on, then gives God’s response: “Behold, I am weighed down by you, as a cart full of sheaves is weighed down.” This is God’s rebuke of His people. He then says: “Therefore flight shall perish from the swift, the strong shall not strengthen his power, nor shall the mighty deliver himself; he shall not stand who handles the bow, the swift of foot shall not escape.” God was foretelling the conditions when He visited His judgment on His people. Then He says, “The most courageous men of might shall flee naked in that day” (2:13–16). As another example, the book of Revelation connects the judgments of God on the wicked to nakedness (Rev. 3:17;16:15; 17:16).
The motif of clothing and nakedness is at the heart of our understanding of redemption. Our own righteousness, we are told, is like rotten, filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). The only way any of us can stand in God’s presence is to be stripped of those rags and then clothed afresh in the garments of Christ’s righteousness. That is the gospel. You and I can never stand in the presence of a holy God unless we are clothed from on high with a righteousness that is not our own.
God has provided for us a covering for our shame and our nakedness. He has invited us into His redeeming presence to experience anew that sense of safety that we have in knowing His Son has covered our sin with His blood on the cross and covered our nakedness with His perfect righteousness in His life.
What book is that? Your local church’s membership directory.
Now, before you roll your eyes and run off to read something else, give me a moment more of your time.
Christians are not isolated spiritual pilgrims on a journey to heaven. Rather, the Bible says we are all members of His body (1 Corinthians 12:27), children in His family (1 John 3:1-2), and sheep of His flock (John 16:10). These descriptions reflect the reality that God intends Christians to be part of a tight knit community.
One day that community will all be together in heaven with Jesus (Revelation 5:9-14, 7:9-17), but for now we gather together in local churches. These churches are assemblies of believers who regularly come together to worship Jesus through song, prayer, preaching of the Word, and sharing in the ordinances (baptism and Lord’s Supper).
But we don’t just gather for those reasons, we also gather to foster relationships in which we help each other to the heaven. Consider these two verses from the book of Hebrews.
“Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
These verses highlight the kind of things that flow out of relationships formed in a local church. We are not merely a social club who gets together for sweet tea, chitchat, and a round of golf. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle awaiting our Savior’s return. We are being assaulted with temptations, trials, and hardships of every kind. In light of this, we need each other to help one another not give up, but to keep our hope set on Jesus’ return.
So what in the world does this have to do with a church membership directory?
I believe it is the second most important book you own because it keeps before your eyes the brothers and sisters you are responsible to help to heaven. God has called you to help particular brothers and sisters to fight against sin. He has called you to stir up particular people to love and good works. He has called you to encourage particular people every day until it is no longer called today.
The directory, if designed and used well, can be one of the most practical tools to helping you and your church fulfill the one another commands of the New Testament.
Let me explain a little more…
1. It gives every member a practical tool to aid in prayer and encouragement…
2. This helps pastors better shepherd the flock Jesus entrusts to them…
3. It keeps homebound members on your mind, though they may be out of sight…
4. It helps homebound members continue to invest in the spiritual health of the church…
5. It helps alert church members to people who may be in danger…
At 5:30pm is a dinner amongst the churches and we have been invited to join. If you would like to join the dinner please let me know so that I can get a headcount to the host church by this Monday, Jan. 12th.
4pm is a time of prayer amongst the churches, but due to our service time we won’t be able to make that.
Stephen Witmer explains the weaknesses of typical plans and offers some advice on reading the Bible together with others—as well as offering his own new two-year plan. (“In my opinion, it is better to read the whole Bible through carefully one time in two years than hastily in one year.”) His plan has you read through one book of the Bible at a time (along with a daily reading from the Psalms or Proverbs). At the end of two years you will have read through the Psalms and Proverbs four times and the rest of the Bible once.
The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog (which you can subscribe to via email) takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. M’Cheyne’s plan has you read shorter selections from four different places in the Bible each day.
For those who would benefit from a realistic “discipline + grace” approach, consider “The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.” As Andy Perry explains, it takes away the pressure (and guilt) of “keeping up” with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:
Sundays: Poetry Mondays: Penteteuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) Tuesdays: Old Testament history Wednesdays: Old Testament history Thursdays: Old Testament prophets Fridays: New Testament history Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters)
You can also access each of these Reading Plans as podcasts:
Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the “RSS” link of the feed you want from the above list.
Choose “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut.”
Start iTunes. [Or your podcatcher]
Under File, choose “Subscribe to Podcast.”
Paste the URL into the box.
Resources for Bible Reading from Ligonier Ministries:
Many Christians take the beginning of a new year to evaluate their Bible reading habits, and then change or begin a Bible reading plan.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. — Psalm 119:105
For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of Bible reading plans for you to choose from. Maybe this year you will read more of the Bible each day. Perhaps you’ll slow down your reading and instead spend more time considering what you read. Whatever it is you’re looking for in a reading plan, you should find it below.
52 Week Bible Reading Plan
Read through the Bible in a year, with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels.
Reading ten chapters a day, in the course of a year you’ll read the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters four to five times, the Old Testament wisdom literature six times, the Psalms at least twice, Proverbs and Acts a dozen times, and the OT History and Prophetic books about one and a half times.
This plan does not have set readings for each day. Instead, it has set books for each month, and set number of Proverbs and Psalms to read each week. It aims to give you more flexibility, while grounding you in specific books of the Bible each month.