The Word of God - Part 6
Many Christians have erroneously been taught to depend on pastors and other church leaders for their discipleship at the expense of personal responsibility and development. While God has given men to the church as ministry gifts, they are limited in what they can do. Their primary function should be to provide oversight and to lead people to maturity in Christ. This should be mainly accomplished by example. Notice what Paul tells us about church leadership:
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ; from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).
The end of all ministry should be maturity, that we all come into the fullness of Christ as ministers of Christ building the body of Christ up in love. Leaders are not called to be the ministry but rather to equip the saints for ministry. The goal of every leader should be to produce Christ in His fullness in every saint that they might no longer be children but rather mature saints in Christ. Only as each member of the body grows into maturity and does his part as a minister of Christ, can the body grow up spiritually for the edifying of itself in love.
Much of the church today is stuck in a cycle of dependency much like the welfare system. Most Christians depend on the church leadership to do everything for them even after years of salvation. We basically ‘pay’ the church to take care of our spirituality. The result is an immature body which never grows up.
This was never God’s intention. God designed the church to be a living organism made up of individual living stones, each growing into maturity, that the whole body could be knit together in a communal relationship of intimate love and fellowship. This can only happen as each member takes individual responsibility for his personal growth. As we have seen, that growth can only come through the working of the word and Spirit of God. As much as leadership can guide us, oversee us, and direct us to the truths of God’s word, only the Holy Spirit can produce the light of revelation that changes our lives and produces maturity. Another person’s revelation cannot change us. Only as we individually seek the Lord for ourselves can we discover the knowledge of God that releases the power of God. Ultimately, only the Holy Spirit can reveal truth to us. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13). Ultimately, only the Holy Spirit can teach us with the understanding that produces fruit. “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him” (1 John 2:27). Leaders can impart head knowledge, but only the Holy Spirit can impart revelation.
The basic concept of a disciple is that of a student. For us, that means being a student of the word. Many Christians believe that they are being ‘spiritual’ by reading the word only as the ‘Holy Spirit directs.’ They claim to get more out of the word by focusing only on that which the Spirit ‘leads’ them to read. Now, I do not disagree that the Spirit can lead us to particular passages of scripture to reveal certain truths to us or to help us through a particular problem. The Lord has done this many times in my own life. But at the same time, it is very dangerous and unscriptural to use this method as our only means of study. It can lead to error and deception as we tend to take scripture out of context and develop doctrines that do not line up with the rest of God’s word. We must understand that the same God wrote the entire Bible from beginning to end. God cannot contradict Himself. The best proof for interpreting a scripture correctly is that it agrees with the whole word of God. If it doesn’t, than the error is not on God’s part but rather on our own interpretation. But unless we read the whole word of God we will not know if it is in agreement with itself.
The best way to study God’s word is God’s way. He tells us that we must study the whole word of God that we might have a full understanding of Who God is and what His word says. There is a lot of error in the church today simply because we don’t abide by this principle, particularly when it comes to the study of the Old Testament versus the New Testament. The truth is, we cannot fully comprehend the New apart from the Old as the New Testament is built upon the foundation of the Old Testament. Look at what God says about His word:
“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient; in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:18,19).
Notice what the Lord said: we are to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. And what is every word from the mouth of God? All scripture! In other words, the entire Bible was given to us by the inspiration or breath of God. It all came from the mouth of God. And we are to live by every word that came from the mouth of God. Therefore, our life is dependent on the study of the entire Bible. Why? Because all scripture is profitable or useful for our spiritual growth and well being. Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, abided by this principal in his own life. He fully preached the gospel of Christ, meaning he had to know the whole scripture that then existed. If you look at his teachings you will find that most of it is derived from a knowledge of the Old Testament. We must develop a habit of reading through the entire Bible over and over again that we might glean the hidden treasures of God’s knowledge and understanding.
As I said earlier, everything God does comes through His word and Spirit in conjunction with repentance and faith. As we have seen, the purpose of our study of the word is to gain the revelation of the knowledge of God. If our discipleship is to be effective then we must do it with both the word and the Spirit and in a proper attitude. We are commanded to abide in the word of God and to have the word abide in us (2 John 1:9; John 15:7). This speaks of consistency. We must develop a godly habit of being in the word on a daily basis and of putting the word in our hearts through meditation and memorization. We are also commanded to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This means we must actively seek the infilling and the presence of the Holy Spirit continuously. We must learn to read the word with a conscious communion of the Holy Spirit. We then approach the study of the word in an attitude of prayer, faith, humility, obedience, and diligence. Below is a list of things that will help us to receive from the word, all based on what God has already made provision for us through the work of the Holy Spirit. We should boldly and confidently ask the Holy Spirit:
- To teach us and guide us into all truth.
- To reveal the Father and the Son to us.
- To anoint the word that it would work effectually in us in all of its power.
- To open the eyes of our understanding and grant us revelation from God.
- To convict us of all sin and unrighteousness revealed through the word.
- To anoint the word to produce faith in our hearts.
- To give us direction through the word.
- To revive us through the word.
- To give us hearing ears and seeing eyes.
- To renew our minds.
- To transfigure us daily.
If you go back and reread the scriptures concerning what the word of God does in us and for us you can probably add to this list. In addition to what the Holy Spirit does, we must also do our part to receive from the word. Again, we can ask the Holy Spirit for help in these areas as well.
- Come in a spirit of humility and repentance.
- Come in an attitude of faith to believe what the word says.
- Come to the word as a mirror, examining yourself and not others.
- Come with an attitude of teachableness. We really don’t know it all!
- Come ready to receive the word with meekness.
- Come with an attitude of worship and praise.
- Come with great desire to know God and be changed by Him.
God has designed His word with a built-in growth process. The more we seek the Lord, the more He reveals Himself to us, and the more He reveals Himself to us, the more we desire to seek Him. The righteous will live by faith. Faith works from faith to faith, that is, faith produces more faith. The more we apply ourselves to the word of God, the more it produces in us, thereby driving us to apply ourselves more diligently. Jesus said it this way:
“And He said to them, ‘Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you – and more [besides] will be given to you who hear. For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away [by force]’” (Mark 4:24,25 Amplified).
The word of God is also the will of God. John said, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14,15). Therefore, if we pray the word of God, we are pretty much guaranteed results. Below I have listed several prayers from the word of God which concern our spiritual growth. These prayers declare the perfect will of God for each one of us. We can boldly present these prayers to God on our behalf as part of our discipleship and confidently expect God to act upon them. They also provide God’s tools for our spiritual development which are so necessary to make our study effective. We can use these prayers to help us start our daily devotion.
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:16-21).
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21).
“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Colossians 1:9-12).
“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20,21).
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).