Ligonier Ministries post five ways that we can pray for our pastor (written by a pastor). You can listen to the nearly 6 minute readout of article:
Just the other day I received a letter in the mail from a medical doctor whom I have never met before. Having told me how he had benefited from some of my sermons and articles, he went on to tell me, “I pray for you. I will be able to do so on a very regular basis now and trust that you will be helped and strengthened in your ministry and family.” This was an enormous comfort and encouragement to me. Contrary to what some might suppose, ministers of the gospel desperately need the prayers of the saints. One of my seminary professors used to tell the student body, “Pastors have a bull’s eye on their back and footprints up their chest.” This is quite an appropriate description of the hardships that God’s servants are called to endure for the sake of the gospel. The flaming arrows of the evil one are persistently being shot at pastors. In addition, the world is eager to run them over at any opportunity. This is, sadly, also a reality with regard to some in the church.
With so much opposition and difficulty within and without, pastors constantly need the people of God to be praying for them. The shepherd needs the prayers of the sheep as much as they need his prayers. He also is one of Christ’s sheep, and is susceptible to the same weaknesses. While there are many things one could pray for pastors, here are five straightforward Scriptural categories:
1. Pray for their spiritual protection from the world, the flesh and the Devil.
Whether it was Moses’ sinful anger leading to his striking of the rock (Num. 20:7-12), David’s adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11), or Simon Peter’s denial of the Lord (Matt. 26:69-75) and practical denial of justification by faith alone (Gal. 2:11-21), ministers are faced with the reality of the weakness of the flesh, the assaults of the world and the rage of the devil (see this article). There have been a plethora of ministers who have fallen into sinful practices in the history of the church and so brought disgrace to the name of Christ. Since Satan has ministers of the gospel (and their families) locked in his sight—and since God’s honor is at stake in a heightened sense with any public ministry of the word, members of the church should pray that their pastor and their pastor’s family would not fall prey to the world, the flesh, or the Devil.
2. Pray for their deliverance from the physical attacks of the world and the Devil.
While under prison guard in Rome, the apostle Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi to pray for his release when he wrote, “I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). (See also 2 Cor. 1:9-11).
When Herod imprisoned Simon Peter we learn that “constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:5). After an exodus-like deliverance from prison, Luke tells us that Peter showed up at the home where the disciples were continuing to pray for his deliverance. This is yet another example of the minister being delivered from harm due, in part, to the prayers of the saints.
3. Pray for doors to be opened to them for the spread of the gospel.
In his letter to the Colossians Paul asked the church to be praying “that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains” (Col. 4:3). The success of the spread of the gospel is dependant in part on the prayers of the people of God. In this way, the church shares in the gospel ministry with the pastor. Though he is not the only one in the body who is called to spread the word, he has a unique calling to “do the work of an evangelist.” The saints help him fulfill this work by praying that the Lord would open doors “for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ.”
4. Pray that they might have boldness and power to preach the gospel.
In addition to praying for open doors for the ministry of the word, the people of God should pray that ministers would have Spirit-wrought boldness. When writing to the church in Ephesus, the apostle Paul asked them to pray for him “that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19). There is a well-known story of several college students going to visit the Metropolitan Tabernacle in order to hear Charles Spurgeon preach. As the story goes, Spurgeon met them at the door and offered to show them around. At one point he asked if they wanted to see the church’s heater plant (boiler room). He took them downstairs where they saw hundreds of people praying for God’s blessings on the service and on Spurgeon’s preaching. The gathering of the people of God to pray for the ministry of the word is what he called “the heating plant!” Believers can help ministers by praying that they would be given boldness and power in preaching the gospel.
5. Pray that they might have a spirit of wisdom and understanding.
One of the most pressing needs for a minister of the gospel is that he would be given the necessary wisdom to counsel, to know when to confront, to mediate and to discern the particular pastoral needs of a congregation. This is an all-encompassing and a recurring need. The minister is daily faced with particular challenges for which he desperately needs the wisdom of Christ. It is said of Jesus that “the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, and of counsel and might” was upon Him (Is. 11:2). The servants of Christ need that same Spirit. Much harm is done to the church as a whole if the minister does not proceed with the wisdom commensurate to the challenges with which he is faced. Those who benefit from this wisdom can help the minister by calling down this divine blessing from heaven upon him.
Here is some helpful audio (or video) to supplement Pastor Jay’s recent sermon regarding work:
Despite the fact that most Christians spend half of their waking lives at work, most have been taught very little on Sunday mornings about how to apply the truths of the gospel to the practicalities of their Monday to Friday work life. It is not uncommon for Christian professionals to hold an undeveloped, if not flat-out unbiblical, theology of work.
The conference will address questions like:
• What is God’s purpose for my work?
• How does the gospel change my work?
• How does applying the truths of the gospel help me manage differently?
• How does a Christian strategize and plan his or her career?
- Biblical Theology of Work – Michael Lawrence | mp3
- Work as Worship – Mark Dever | mp3
- Work as Discipleship – Bob Doll | mp3
- Work as Calling – Os Guinness | mp3
- Work as Faithfulness – Eric Simmons | mp3
- Productivity and the Gospel – Matt Perman | mp3
- Christian Career Planning – Matt Aiello and David Lam | mp3
- Leading and Managing in the Workplace – Andre Yee | mp3
- Money: The Forgotten Hero of the Workplace – Jamie Dunlop | mp3
- Women, Work and Productivity – Carolyn McCulley | mp3
- Handling Authority: Working for a Bad Boss, Being a Good Boss – Jonathan Leeman | mp3
- Supporting Business Leaders at Your Church: A Case Study – Nelson Cooney | mp3
- Evangelism in the Workplace – Ashok Nachnani | mp3
For lack of wood the fire goes out,
and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.
As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.
Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel
are fervent lips with an evil heart.
Gossip involves saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face.
Flattery means saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.
Here are some wise words from Dan Phillips for when you hear gossip from someone:
1. Ask, “Why are you telling me this?” Often, that in itself is such a focusing question that it can bring an end to the whole unpleasant chapter. It has the added benefit that it can help a person whose intentions are as good as his/her judgment is bad.
2. Ask, “What’s the difference between what you’re telling me and gossip?” See above; same effect, same potential benefits.
3. Ask, “How is your telling me that thought, that complaint, that information going to help you and me love God and our brothers better, and knit us closer together as a church in Christ’s love?” Isn’t that the goal we should share, every one of us? Won’t it take the working of each individual member (Eph. 4:16)? Isn’t the watch-out for harmful influences an every-member ministry (Heb. 3:12-13; 10:24; 13:12-15)?
4. Ask, “Now that you’ve told me about that, what are you going to do about it?” While the previous two are subjective, this is not. If neither of the previous two questions succeeded in identifying gossip/whispering/sowing-dissension for what they are, the answer to this question will do so. Tip: if the answer is “Pray,” a good response might be “Then why didn’t you do that and leave it there in the first place?”
5. Say, “Now that you’ve told me about that, you’ve morally obligated me to make sure you talk to ____ about it. How long do you think you need, so I can know when this becomes a sin that I will need to confront in you?” The least that this will accomplish is that you’ll fall off the list of gossips’/whisperers’ favorite venting-spots. The most is that you may head off a church split, division, harmed souls, sidelined Gospel ministry, and waylaid discipleship. Isn’t that worth it?
You can read the whole thing here.
Ray Ortlund explains what gossip is and why it is sinfully enticing:
- Gossip is our dark moral fervor eagerly seeking gratification.
- Gossip makes us feel important and needed as we declare our judgments.
- It makes us feel included to know the inside scoop.
- It makes us feel powerful to cut someone else down to size, especially someone we are jealous of.
- It makes us feel righteous, even responsible, to pronounce someone else guilty.
- Gossip can feel good in multiple ways. But it is of the flesh, not of the Spirit.
- . . . Gossip is a sin rarely disciplined but often more socially destructive than the sensational sins.
- Gossip leaves a wide trail of devastation wherever and however it goes – word of mouth, email, blogging, YouTube.
- It erodes trust and destroys morale.
- It creates a social environment of suspicion where everyone must wonder what is being said behind their backs and whether appearances of friendship are sincere.
- It ruins hard-won reputations with cowardly but effective weapons of misrepresentation.
- It manipulates people into taking sides when no such action is necessary or beneficial.
- It unleashes the dark powers of psychological transference, doing violence to the gossiper, to the one receiving the gossip and to the person being spoken against.
- It makes the Body of Christ look like the Body of Antichrist – destroyers rather than healers.
- It exhausts the energies we would otherwise devote to positive witness.
- It robs our Lord of the Church he deserves.
- It exposes the hostility in our hearts and discredits the gospel in the eyes of the world. Then we wonder why we don’t see more conversions, why “the ground is so hard.”
Read the whole thing, including his own counsel on what you should do when you start to hear gossip.
Love always covers (1 Cor. 13:7 | 1 Pet. 4:8)
- To keep another’s sin confidential/concealed
- Love does not gossip
- (3 minutes on this point): [audio:http://mp3.sa-media.com/preview3/61411820482/61411820482.mp3]
by Ligon Duncan
We are living in a confused and confusing time for confessional Christians (Christians who are anchored by a public and corporate theological commitment to be faithful to the Bible’s teaching on faith and practice as expounded by the great confessions of the Protestant Reformation). We are witnessing the final demise of theological liberalism, the rise of Pentecostalism, the beginnings of the so-called emerging church movement, the breakdown of evangelicalism, and an utter discombobulation about how the church is to conduct its life and ministry in an increasing “post-Christian” culture. All around us, in the name of reaching the culture with the Gospel, we see evangelical churches compromising (usually without intending to) in both message and methods.
It is not uncommon today to hear certain buzz-words and catch phrases that are meant to capture and articulate new (and presumably more culturally-attuned) approaches to ministry: “Purpose-driven,” “missional,” “contextualization,” “word and deed,” “ancient-future,” “emerging/emergent,” “peace and justice.” Now, to be sure, there are points, diagnoses, and emphases entailed in each of these terms and concepts that are helpful, true, and timely. Sadly, however, the philosophies of ministry often associated with this glossary are also often self-contrasted with the historic Christian view of how the church lives and ministers. That view is often called “the ordinary means of grace” view of ministry.
The fundamental assumption underlying these new approaches is that “everything has changed,” and so our methods must change. I would want to dispute both parts of that equation. Whatever the entailments of our present cultural moment, constituent human nature has not changed (as R.C. Sproul often reminds us). And thus the fundamental human problem has not changed. Neither has the Gospel solution to it. Nor have the effectiveness of God’s Gospel means. Furthermore, one of the things that has always marked faithful and effective Christian ministry in every era and area of the world is a confidence in God’s Word, both in the Gospel message and in Gospel means. Faith still comes by hearing.
In sum, there are basically three views of Gospel ministry. There are those who think that effective cultural engagement requires an updating of the message. There are those who think that effective ministry requires an updating of our methods. And there are those who think that effective ministry begins with a pre-commitment to God’s message and methods, set forth in His Word.
Thus, liberalism said that the Gospel won’t work unless the message is changed. Modern evangelicalism (and not just in its “seeker-sensitive” and postmodern permutations) has often said that the Gospel won’t work unless our methods are changed. But those committed to an “ordinary means” approach to church life and ministry say the Gospel works, and God has given us both the method and the message. This is vitally important in a time where one of the dominant story-lines in the churches has been that of methods unwittingly, unhelpfully, and unbiblically altering both the message and the ministry.
Ordinary means of grace-based ministry is ministry that focuses on doing the things God, in the Bible, says are central to the spiritual health and growth of His people, and which aims to see the qualities and priorities of the church reflect biblical norms. Ordinary means ministry is thus radically committed to biblical direction of the priorities of ministry. Ordinary means ministry believes that God has told us the most important things, not only about the truth we are to tell, but about the way we are to live and minister — in any and every context. Hence, God has given us both the message of salvation and the means of gathering and building the church, in His Word. However, important understanding our context is, however important understanding the times may be (and these things are, in fact, very important), however important appreciating the cultural differences in the places and times we serve, the ordinary means approach to ministry is first and foremost concerned with biblical fidelity. Because faithfulness is relevance. The Gospel is the message and the local church is the plan. God has given to his church spiritual weapons for the bringing down of strongholds. These ordinary means of grace are the Word, sacraments, and prayer.
They may seem weak in the eyes of the worldly strong. They may seem foolish in the eyes of the worldly wise. But the Gospel message is the power of God unto salvation, and the Gospel means are effectual to salvation. These are the Spiritual instruments given by God with which Christian congregational Spiritual life is nurtured, the Spirit’s tools of grace and growth in grace appointed by God in the Bible.
So, when we say ordinary means of grace-based ministry, we mean a radical commitment to following the direction of God’s Word as to both the message and the means of gathering and perfecting the saints. Ordinary means ministry has a high view of the Bible, preaching, the church, the ordinances or sacraments, and prayer. Ordinary means ministry believes that the key things that the church can do in order to help people know God and grow in their knowledge of God are: First, emphasize the public reading and preaching of the Word; second, emphasize the confirming, sanctifying and assuring efficacy of the sacraments, publicly administered; and third, emphasize a life of prayer, especially expressed corporately in the church. These things are central and vital but sadly often under-emphasized, under-appreciated, and undermined.
Ordinary means of grace-based ministry believes that God means what He says in the Bible about the central importance of these public, outward instruments for spiritual life and growth. God explicitly instructs ministers and churches to do the following things: “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13); “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2); “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19); “take, eat; this is my body. …which is for you…drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins; …do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (Matt. 26:26–28; 1 Cor. 11:25–26); “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made…. I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands” (1 Tim. 2:1, 8).
These are the main ways God’s people grow. We are saved by grace (alone), through faith (alone), in Christ (alone). But the instruments, the tools of God’s grace to bring us to faith and grow us in grace are the Word, prayer, and sacraments. Nothing else we do in the church’s program of ministry should detract from these central instruments of grace, and indeed everything else we do should promote and coalesce with them.
This means, among other things, that ministry is not rocket science. Gospel faithfulness does not require the minister to be a sociologist. Because ministry is not determined (in the first place) by reading the culture but by reading the Word of God. The ordinary means minister wants to connect with the culture, but when it comes to determining method and priorities he moves from text to ministry, not from culture to ministry. He neither changes his message nor his methods based on the polling of the most recent focus group (though he strives to be fully cognizant of the obstacles and opportunities that his biblical message and methods face in his particular cultural context). He fully understands that there is no such thing as an unsituated biblical ministry, or an uncontextualized ministry (and so is careful not to universalize his particular cultural moment, nor to confuse it with universal, biblical norms). He also fully appreciates that some churches have unhelpfully baptized cultural norms and methods from the past, without realizing that baneful cultural influence. But he also knows that many churches, in the quest to contextualize the Gospel and the ministry, have in fact compromised them.
So he’s constantly going back and asking “what are my marching orders?” And when he remembers, it doesn’t require a Ph.D. in semiotics to interpret them: preach the Word, love the people, pray down heaven, disciple the elders, promote family religion, live a godly life. And what are the church’s marching orders: delight in the Lord’s Day, gathering with the saints to drink in the pure milk of the Word every Sunday morning and evening, as families; pray together as a congregation once every week; worship and catechize at home in families; love one another and all men.
What will a church look like that is committed to the ordinary means of grace? It will be characterized by love for expository Bible preaching, passion for worship, delight in truth, embrace of the Gospel, the Spirit’s work of conversion, a life of godliness; robust family religion; biblical evangelism, biblical discipleship, biblical church membership, mutual accountability in the church, biblical church leadership, and a desire to be a blessing to the nations. Along with this all, there will be an unapologetic, humble, and joyful celebration of the transcendent sovereignty of the one, true, triune God in salvation and all things.
From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine.
Listen to readout of article (10 minutes)
FROM Sinclair Ferguson
The aftermath of a conversation can change the way we later think of its significance.
My friend — a younger minister — sat down with me at the end of a conference in his church and said: “Before we retire tonight, just take me through the steps that are involved in helping someone mortify sin.” We sat talking about this for a little longer and then went to bed, hopefully he was feeling as blessed as I did by our conversation. I still wonder whether he was asking his question as a pastor or simply for himself — or both.
How would you best answer his question? The first thing to do is: Turn to the Scriptures. Yes, turn to John Owen (never a bad idea!), or to some other counselor dead or alive. But remember that we have not been left only to good human resources in this area. We need to be taught from “the mouth of God” so that the principles we are learning to apply carry with them both the authority of God and the promise of God to make them work.
Several passages come to mind for study: Romans 8:13; Romans 13:8–14(Augustine’s text); 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1; Ephesians 4:17–5:21; Colossians 3:1–17;1 Peter 4:1–11; 1 John 2:28–3:11. Significantly, only two of these passages contain the verb “mortify” (“put to death”). Equally significantly, the context of each of these passages is broader than the single exhortation to put sin to death. As we shall see, this is an observation that turns out to be of considerable importance.
Of these passages, Colossians 3:1–17 is probably the best place for us to begin.
Here were relatively young Christians. They have had a wonderful experience of conversion to Christ from paganism. They had entered a gloriously new and liberating world of grace. Perhaps — if we may read between the lines — they had felt for a while as if they had been delivered, not only from sin’s penalty but almost from its influence — so marvelous was their new freedom. But then, of course, sin reared its ugly head again. Having experienced the “already” of grace they were now discovering the painful “not yet” of ongoing sanctification. Sounds familiar!
But as in our evangelical sub-culture of quick fixes for long-term problems, unless the Colossians had a firm grasp of Gospel principles, they were now at risk! For just at this point young Christians can be relatively easy prey to false teachers with new promises of a higher spiritual life. That was what Paul feared (Col. 2:8, 16). Holiness-producing methods were now in vogue (Col. 2:21–22) — and they seemed to be deeply spiritual, just the thing for earnest young believers. But, in fact, “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23). Not new methods, but only an understanding of how the Gospel works, can provide an adequate foundation and pattern for dealing with sin. This is the theme ofColossians 3:1–17.
Paul gives us the pattern and rhythm we need. Like Olympic long jumpers, we will not succeed unless we go back from the point of action to a point from which we can gain energy for the strenuous effort of dealing with sin. How, then, does Paul teach us to do this?
First of all, Paul underlines how important it is for us to be familiar with our new identity in Christ (3:1–4). How often when we fail spiritually we lament that we forgot who we really are — Christ’s. We have a new identity. We are no longer “in Adam,” but “in Christ”; no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit; no longer dominated by the old creation but living in the new (Rom. 5:12–21; 8:9;2 Cor. 5:17). Paul takes time to expound this. We have died with Christ (Col. 3:3; we have even been buried with Christ, 2:12); we have been raised with Him (3:1), and our life is hidden with Him (3:3). Indeed, so united to Christ are we that Christ will not appear in glory without us (3:4).
Failure to deal with the presence of sin can often be traced back to spiritual amnesia, forgetfulness of our new, true, real identity. As a believer I am someone who has been delivered from the dominion of sin and who therefore is free and motivated to fight against the remnants of sin’s army in my heart.
Principle number one, then, is: Know, rest in, think through, and act upon your new identity — you are in Christ.
Second, Paul goes on to expose the workings of sin in every area of our lives (Col. 3:5–11). If we are to deal with sin biblically, we must not make the mistake of thinking that we can limit our attack to only one area of failure in our lives. All sin must be dealt with. Thus Paul ranges through the manifestation of sin in private life (v. 5), everyday public life (v. 8), and church life (vv. 9–11; “one another,” “here,” that is, in the church fellowship). The challenge in mortification is akin to the challenge in dieting (itself a form of mortification!): once we begin we discover that there are all kinds of reasons we are overweight. We are really dealing with ourselves, not simply with calorie control. I am the problem, not the potato chips! Mortifying sin is a whole-of-life change.
Third, Paul’s exposition provides us with practical guidance for mortifying sin. Sometimes it seems as if Paul gives exhortations (“Put to death…,” 3:5) without giving “practical” help to answer our “how to?” questions. Often today, Christians go to Paul to tell them what to do and then to the local Christian bookstore to discover how to do it! Why this bifurcation? Probably because we do not linger long enough over what Paul is saying. We do not sink our thinking deeply into the Scriptures. For, characteristically, whenever Paul issues an exhortation he surrounds it with hints as to how we are to put it into practice.
This is certainly true here. Notice how this passage helps to answer our “how to?” questions.
1. Learn to admit sin for what it really is. Call a spade a spade — call it “sexual immorality,” not “I’m being tempted a little”; call it “impurity,” not “I’m struggling with my thought life”; call it “evil desire, which is idolatry,” not “I think I need to order my priorities a bit better.” This pattern runs right through this whole section. How powerfully this unmasks self-deceit — and helps us to unmask sin lurking in the hidden corners of our hearts!
2. See sin for what your sin really is in God’s presence. “On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (3:6). The masters of the spiritual life spoke of dragging our lusts (kicking and screaming, though they be) to the cross, to a wrath-bearing Christ. My sin leads to — not lasting pleasure — but holy divine displeasure. See the true nature of your sin in the light of its punishment. Too easily do we think that sin is less serious in Christians than it is in non-believers: “It’s forgiven, isn’t it?” Not if we continue in it (1 John 3:9)! Take a heaven’s-eye view of sin and feel the shame of that in which you once walked (Col. 3:7; see alsoRom. 6:21).
3. Recognize the inconsistency of your sin. You put off the “old man,” and have put on the “new man” (3:9–10). You are no longer the “old man.” The identity you had “in Adam” is gone. The old man was “crucified with him [Christ] in order that the body of sin [probably “life in the body dominated by sin”] might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:6). New men live new lives. Anything less than this is a contradiction of who I am “in Christ.”
4. Put sin to death (Col. 3:5). It is as “simple” as that. Refuse it, starve it, and reject it. You cannot “mortify” sin without the pain of the kill. There is no other way!
But notice that Paul sets this in a very important, broader context. The negativetask of putting sin to death will not be accomplished in isolation from the positivecall of the Gospel to “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14). Paul spells this out in Colossians 3:12–17. Sweeping the house clean simply leaves us open to a further invasion of sin. But when we understand the “glorious exchange” principle of the Gospel of grace, then we will begin to make some real advance in holiness. As sinful desires and habits are not only rejected, but exchanged for Christ-like graces (3:12) and actions (3:13); as we are clothed in Christ’s character and His graces are held together by love (v. 14), not only in our private life but also in the church fellowship (vv. 12–16), Christ’s name and glory are manifested and exalted in and among us (3:17).
These are some of the things my friend and I talked about that memorable evening. We did not have an opportunity later to ask each other, “How are you going?” for it was our last conversation. He died some months later. I have often wondered how the months in between went in his life. But the earnest personal and pastoral concern in his question still echoes in my mind. They have a similar effect to the one Charles Simeon said he felt from the eyes of his much-loved portrait of the great Henry Martyn: “Don’t trifle!”
This article was originally published in Tabletalk Magazine.
by William “Billy” F. Leonhart III
Listen to readout of article: Runtime 8:16
(Note: These are my modified notes from this past week‘s Kids’ Catechesis lesson at SJCC)
Q.112: How do we know the Word of God?
A. We are commanded to hear, read, and search the Scriptures.
2Timothy 3:14-17; Acts 17:11; 1Timothy 4:13
“14You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (NASB).
Paul’s disciple Timothy had a godly mother and grandmother who cared for him enough to teach him what the Bible said (2Timothy 1:5; 3:15). At that time, the only Scripture they had available to them was the Old Testament, but Timothy was taught from the Old Testament nonetheless. His mother and grandmother read to him and probably had him memorize large portions of Scripture, much like how we have our children memorize things like the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23.
Why do we have our children memorize Scripture? We have them memorize Scripture so that they can have it in their minds and in their hearts for when they need it most. “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11; NASB). When we are confronted with temptation, it is good for us to have memorized the word of God so that we can remember it and not sin.
When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, Satan tried to convince Jesus to do what he wanted Him to do by quoting improperly interpreted Scripture to Him. Jesus, having memorized Scripture Himself, was able to respond with correctly interpreted Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11). If we want to be like Jesus and not sin, we need to treasure God’s word in our hearts. We need to memorize Scripture.
Timothy’s mother and grandmother likely used other methods to train him in the word. It is likely that he was shown how to search the Scriptures to see if the things he was being taught were true. After all, Paul wrote to him: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2Timothy 3:16-17; NASB). Timothy needed to know how to search “all Scripture.” We also have other examples of godly men and women searching the Scriptures to see if they were being taught truth.
“Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (NASB).
The church at Berea were considered “noble-minded” by Luke, the author of Acts, because “they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether [the things the apostles were teaching them] were so.” No one is expected to just take the teachings of a man at face-value. We must believe only those religious teachings that line up with the word of God. If it does not line up with God’s word, it is not true.
Why do we need to test truth claims with the Bible? God’s word is the final authority on all matters to do with faith and obedience (LBCF 1677/1689, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1). If we want to know what we should believe about God, the Christian life, and the church, we must read the Bible. If we want to know how to obey God and glorify Him, we must read the Bible. This does not mean we cannot trust what men say about God to be true, but God expects us to take what we learn about Him from men and compare it to the Bible to make sure it is the truth.
Of course, Timothy could not have learned to search the Scriptures if he had not first read Scripture. Many of our children are learning to read. But do we know why we have historically placed such an emphasis on literacy in Western societies?In the 16th century, a man named Martin Luther translated the New Testament into the language of his people. It was the first time since the Latin Vulgate, at the beginning of the Middle Ages, that the entire New Testament had been translated into the common language.
Luther was so eager to see how the people of his country were learning from this New Testament that he went on a tour of his native Saxony. To his surprise, most of them had not even begun to read his translation of the New Testament. The reason: most of the people of Saxony could not read! Appalled, Luther wrote to the princes of Saxony and told them that they had a duty to God to educate the people so that they could read God’s word. This was the beginning of the modern education movement. We need to learn to read so that we can read God’s word.
It’s not just important that we learn how to read God’s word. It’s important that we start to read it regularly. Our church has started a Bible reading campaignthis year and many of our members are taking part in it. We are encouraging parents to read the Bible with their families every night. Each of our members is encouraged, regardless of the reading plan they use, to “cherish the word of God,” “teach [their] children the word of God,” and “engage in regular Bible reading.” It is very important that we read the Bible regularly.
“Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (NASB).
Even if our children can’t read, yet, or if they can’t read well, they can still hear the word of God. They can hear the word of God in their homes, they can recite to themselves the passages we have them memorize, and they can sit under the preached word at church. At SJCC, when our pastor gets up to preach, we read a passage of the Bible, first. Then, he explains what we’ve just read. This is a perfect time for our children to hear the word of God.
Also, as their parents, we all know how to read and yet we come every week to hear the word of God. Why do we come to hear the word of God preached if we can just read it? God speaks to us in a special way when we come to hear His word proclaimed on the Lord’s Day. It is very important that we be attentive in these times. We can listen, take notes, and discuss our families’ questions about the sermon when we get home. These things are very important for our relationships with God. As we grow in our knowledge of God, we will grow in our relationship with Him, too.
Meditate on Scripture
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.” (NASB).
According to Psalm 1, the righteous man meditates on God’s law day and night. If we want to be like the righteous man, we ought to meditate on God’s law ourselves. The Scripture we memorize, the Scripture we search, the Scripture we read, and the Scripture we hear… upon these things we are called to meditate day and night.
In meditating on God’s word, we will have effectively stored it up as treasure in our hearts. We will find ourselves thinking about, talking about, and even singing about God’s word throughout the day. As we learn to think, speak, and do the things written in God’s word, we will draw closer to Him and be less and less inclined toward sin. These are the things Paul wanted Timothy to dwell on as he ministered to the church of God at Ephesus.