Every follower of Jesus should cultivate the habit of regular Bible reading. Here are ten reasons why.
God’s Word leads us to salvation.
In 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Paul tells Timothy to continue in the “sacred writings” that He has known from birth. Paul is referring to the Scriptures, which he describes as being “able to give wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The Scriptures lead us to Christ, in whom is our salvation. But the Scriptures also continually point us to Christ throughout our lives and remind us of the gospel. We need to be reminded of what God has done for us in Christ on a regular basis. That’s why Paul encourages Timothy to continue reading them- and why we should to!
We are natural accumulators. We get and want more, so we get more and then want even more. This is true even at the subconscious level of the human mind. It is a proven fact that when we inhabit a space, whether it is a 2,000 sq. ft home or an 8,000 sq. ft home, we will accumulate enough things to fill the space whether we need those things or not. This is why Netflix series like ‘Tyding Up’ with Marie Kondo entice us. They promise to help us break free from the enslaving cycle of accumulation. The modern ‘minimalist’ movement seeks to do the same. These solutions are temporary at best, acting as band-aids on a fatal wound. But for those who want true freedom from the harsh master of materialism, there is hope in the words of Christ.
The Sermon on the Mount is all about the kingdom-righteousness that Jesus creates in the lives of His people. In Matthew 6:5-14, He teaches us how members of His kingdom should pray. What lessons can we glean about prayer from this section? Let’s take a look.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes the righteousness that characterizes the members of His kingdom. Is a divine righteousness that only He can work in the hearts of His people by the power of the Spirit. It is a righteousness altogether different than that of the religious leaders of the day. It is the righteousness of the redeemed heart that is evident in the words and actions of one’s life. It includes loving one’s enemies, reconciling friendships, making peace, giving generously, and going the extra mile.
In Matthew 5:16, Jesus commands His followers to let their light shine before others, so that people may see their good works and give glory to the Father in heaven. Throughout the rest of Matthew 5, He describes what these good works look like in the context of personal relationships. However, He knows the human heart. He knows that as we progress in righteous living, we will begin to desire glory and praise for ourselves. Thus He warns, in 6:1 “Take care not to practice your righteousness in the sight of people, to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”
Transcript: We are beginning a new series called What We Believe, where we will be going through eleven different sections of the Baptist Faith & Message, the confession we ascribe to as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Last week we explained why we are a Southern Baptist Church and gave a brief history on the use of confessions in church history and specifically the Baptist Faith and Message.
By way of review, confessions are written statements of faith that seek to clearly state what the Scriptures teach. Most confessions have sections on Scripture, God, Salvation, The Church, and so on. They are very useful because they summarize what the Bible teaches on a given topic in a clear and concise manner. These summaries can foster unity and provide doctrinal fidelity among church members, church associations, mission organizations, seminaries, etc. But they can also serve as teaching material. That is why we are using our confession of faith as the basis for a series on what we believe.
Why should we study what we believe? Because there is no graduating beyond the foundational truths of Christianity. We need to be constantly reminded and nourished by the tenets of our theology. They encourage us, enliven us, and give us confident assurance in every season. Without knowing what we believe, we will be like a ship without a rudder, tossed around by every faddish trend or belief system. In fact, one such trend in the church is to downplay the importance of doctrine and theology and focus on the practice of Christianity. Such a trend leaves its church members like cut flowers in a vase- they may look alive for a while, but they will wither and die for lack of roots.
We also need to know what we believe so that we can communicate those beliefs with others. It is very difficult to teach someone something that you don’t know much about. ‘Others’ may include your children, family members, other church members, your neighbors, and even strangers. Our task is to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that Christ taught us. How can we do that without knowing what He has taught us?
I could go on, but for the sake of time, I am going to assume we’re in agreement on the necessity of studying What We Believe. Tonight we are going to begin with the foundation of all our beliefs, including the foundation of confessions like these: the Word of God.
As we expound this article of the BFM, I want you to consider these questions: What is it that I believe about the Bible? Do my beliefs match our confession? And then: Does my life reflect my beliefs? That is where the rubber meets the road. Let’s begin.
This week we are getting into some of the most famous lines of the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:38-42, Jesus continues describing true righteousness by critiquing the religious leader’s interpretation of the law (or oral tradition regarding it). As He did with murder, adultery, divorce, and making oaths, Jesus exposes the religious leaders’ hypocrisy and describes the true righteousness that will characterize the members of His kingdom. He does that by revealing the true nature of the law by applying it to the heart.
Jesus continues this method of teaching by quoting Exodus 21:24 in v.38-42, “You have heard that it was said, ‘eye for eye and tooth for tooth.But I say to you, do not show opposition against an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other toward him also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Matt 5:39-42).
In Matthew 5:33-37, Jesus continues to define the righteousness of his kingdom in the context of personal relationships. In previous verses, He addressed the issues of murder and adultery with their accompanying heart motivations: anger and lust. According to Jesus, true righteousness is not simply avoiding outward expressions of sin such as murder and adultery. True righteousness is doing the hard work of repenting of the sin in our hearts (such as lust and anger), loving what is pleasing to God, and by the power of the Spirit, seeking to live that out in our lives.
In this passage (5:33-37), Jesus transitions from pursuing righteousness in marriage relationships to pursuing righteous speech in all our relationships,
“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, take no oath at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God, nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. Nor shall you take an oath by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. But make sure your statement is, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil origin.”
This week I had the opportunity to meet with a couple who wanted to talk about our church’s stance on eternal security (also called perseverance of the saints). Many people misunderstand what is meant by perseverance of the saints and are rightfully concerned that its proponents hold to a trivial form of “once saved always saved.” Their main concern is that we believe that as long as someone repeats a prayer or makes a profession of faith, their name is sealed in heaven and cannot be removed regardless of how they live post-profession. Thus, they are concerned that we might make salvation a trivial matter: say this, you are saved, and you can never lose it, regardless of how you live.
This is not, however, the historic view on the perseverance of the believer, nor is it the one we hold to. So what do we believe? We believe that when someone genuinely repents and places their faith in Christ, they are saved. They become a son or daughter of God and are given the Holy Spirit. That Spirit ensures their future endurance and is thus the guarantee of their salvation. They will not lose their salvation, because God Himself will complete the work that he started. And this work will be evident in their life!
Here is a categorized list of the verses that help us arrive at this position:
Last week we looked at the subject of anger in Matthew 5:21-26. The main idea was that true righteousness is not characterized by outward behavior but a pure heart. Therefore, simply avoiding murder isn’t a defining mark of righteousness, but cleansing our hearts from underlying anger and putting on love, forgiveness, and compassion is. This is the kind of righteousness that Jesus is calling us to. It is the righteousness that the Spirit will create in the members of God’s kingdom.
In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes what true righteousness looks like in the context of personal relationships. To do that, he quotes the law and shows where the religious leaders only obey the tradition at the surface level. But he also reveals how the principle should be obeyed at the heart level, where almost all of us stand guilty. This is exactly what he did with murder, revealing that the heart behind murder is anger. Thus, anyone who is angry is, in some sense, guilty of murder. This revelation is painful, but we must remember that the righteousness described in the SM is not a prerequisite for salvation. We are saved by Jesus, who has paid the penalty for our unrighteousness and has given us his righteousness. He has also cleansed our hearts and given us his Spirit, by whom he will flesh out the righteousness that the SM speaks of in our lives.
In Matthew 5:27-32, Jesus continues his discourse on relationships by addressing the relationship of marriage. What does true righteousness look like in the relationship between husband and wife? Jesus points to two aspects of the law to answer that question: adultery and divorce.
Prayer is a vital aspect of the Christian life and one of the highest privileges of God’s children. But it can be difficult! How then, are we to pray? And how can we persevere in prayer? By remembering the power of prayer. This power is found in the One to whom we pray. It resides the throne room of heaven, where God our Father sits eager to hear and answer the prayers of His people.
This evening we will be continuing our series Mere Evangelism.For the last few weeks we have been talking about the practice of evangelism: how to communicate the gospel, use imagery, handle objections, and expect opposition. Tonight we are going to discuss one of the vital organs to this body of evangelistic living: prayer.
Without prayer, our evangelism will be plagued by self-dependence, a deadly disease which weakens and kills any effort to serve God. Yet it is not only necessary for evangelism, but for all of Christian living. Someone once asked Charles Spurgeon which was more important, Bible-reading or prayer, to which he responded, “which is more important, breathing out or breathing in?” Prayer is an essential component to any life of faith, any relationship with God, and subsequently, any attempt to do something for God. We must pray.
But prayer is very difficult. Though it should be natural to us to speak to our heavenly Father, we all struggle with when, how, how often, or how long to pray. We need constant encouragement to remain faithful in this spiritual discipline, and we are given such encouragement in the Scriptures! I want to consider several of those tonight with you and look at prayer from a birds eye view and then take a specific look at how it applies to evangelism. We will look at four aspects of prayer: The privilege of prayer, the pain of prayer, the power of prayer, and the practice of prayer.