Tag Archives: Bible study

Making The Church Stronger — Robert Bedenbaugh, Jr.

Have you ever wondered, “What does the church…collectively, congregationally, from the elders, deacons, and preachers to each and every member…need to do in order to become stronger and better in the sight of God in the present day?”  It’s worth at least pondering but, in fact, it’s actually worth deep and extensive study and prayer.  The key to the question is the phrase “in the sight of God” (Ac. 4:19).  Relatively, what else really matters (Ec. 12:13)?

So how would you answer?  Here are some possibilities.  “We should all pray more, especially for wisdom (1 Th. 5:17; Ja. 1:5).”  “We must focus more on evangelism and then encourage the faithful to stay faithful (Mk. 16:15; 1 Th. 5:11).”  “We’ve got to start taking a firmer stand for what is right and against what is wrong (1 Pe. 3:14; Ps. 94:16; Mt. 12:30).”

These are great answers and a good start because any right answer must be rooted in scripture (Ps. 119:172).  If “in the sight of God” is the key to the question, then we must consider what He has said.  I’ve listened to a sermon tape of brother Mel Futrell (currently preaching at the Shades Mountain congregation just south of Birmingham) titled “Intelligent Christianity” where he lists several scriptures from both testaments where God’s people are encouraged, and encouraging others, to reason with God and His Word (Is. 1:18; Ac. 19:9).  Time after time, God’s people are asked (Is. 42:23), required (Dt. 28:1-2), and even warned (Ps. 50:7) by God and His speakers to pay attention to what has been communicated.

Therefore, my answer to this question is to study…more diligently (2 Ti. 2:15).  As a whole, the church needs to study more in order to become stronger and better in the sight of God in the present day.  If we can’t answer our question without going to God’s Word, then the answer must include going to God’s Word…more.  Additionally (and I may stand to be corrected on this), I believe God’s people are generally more ignorant of the Bible presently than in decades past.  I believe New Testament Christians of the last century, regardless of age, had more Bible knowledge than their current counterparts.  Perhaps that’s a generality and my opinion, but I do believe it’s accurate.

What if this question was asked with a hint of discouragement?  In so many words, “What can we do?  What can I do?  I’m just one person.”  What humanity has always needed to do in any day is to “hear the Word of the Lord” (Ez. 37:1-14, especially v. 4).

The New Testament refers to God’s people in this age as “Christians” and “the church,” but God, through inspiration in His New Testament, principally uses “disciples” to refer to His people.  Disciple means “learner, student, or pupil” and is not a title; it is a noun referring to the endeavor to accomplish the action of learning.  This can seem to suggest God cares more about what I’m doing than what I call myself.  He wants me to be a learner (Jn. 5:45), and I can’t learn from Him or about His Son without studying what He has said (Jn. 5:39-40).

Certainly there are caveats.  Knowledge is useless without understanding how to apply it and moving forward to its actual utilization in our lives (Mt. 15:16-20; Ja. 2:22-25).  All of this begins with a healthy respect and reverence for the power and majesty of God (Pr. 1:7; 9:10).  If we study more and learn anything about what God expects but don’t respect God enough to obey, we have nothing for which to hope (Pr. 24:13-14).

First, we should be studying more in private. Everywhere we go, in every situation, we should always have God’s Word in the forefront of our mind (Dt. 6:8-9).  How and when?  By trusting, leaning on, and acknowledging Him with all our heart and in all our ways (Pr. 3:5-6).  Exposing ourselves to scripture day and night brings blessings and prevents sin and error (Ps. 1:1-2; 119:11, 104; 1 Ti. 4:16).  Conversely, a lack of spiritual knowledge brings error and destruction, perhaps for generations (Mt. 22:29; Ho. 4:6).  David Langley, the pulpit minister here at Seneca, recently made this statement with reference to Hebrews 5:11-14 and private Bible study:  “If you plan to get all of your spiritual nourishment in one worship hour per week, you will be a spiritual infant your whole life.”

God has always expected His people to read and hear His teachings (Ex. 24:7; Re. 1:3).  On at least six distinct occasions, Jesus asked, “Have you not read…?”, implying that they personally should have read, understood, and remembered what God recorded for them.  Jesus also once asked, “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?” (Lk. 10:26)  Even our little children and those considered to be “babes in Christ” (1 Co. 3:1) know Jesus defended Himself against Satan with “It is written…” (Mt. 4:1-11).  We all need to study more in private.

Second, we should be studying more in public. Even Jesus read and studied publicly (Lk 4:16; 2:46-47).  Today we are perhaps afforded more public opportunities to study God’s Word together as His people than ever before.  Simultaneously, others around the world are afforded no opportunity and may face death if discovered.  Unfortunately, knowledge of this very fact has seemingly little impact on many of our own siblings in Christ.  Why is Bible class attendance low compared to worship?  Why are many convicted enough to “warm the pew” during worship but not enough to arrive earlier or participate in (or at least listen to) public discussion or even read a verse aloud?  Publicly studying God’s Word goes back millennia (Ne. 8:1-8; 1 Ti. 4:13).

We learn from God’s Word but we also learn from each other, both men and women (2 Ti. 2:2; Ti. 2:3-5).  Not only do we have the responsibility to learn together (Pr. 27:17), but we also have the responsibility to teach (He. 5:12).  We can achieve this just by making wise comments in a class setting.  We all need to study more publicly.  Perhaps it’s even time for you to be a teacher.

Third, we should be studying more with prosterity. God’s people have been given commands (Dt. 6:6-7), examples (2 Ti. 1:5), and necessary inferences (1 Ti. 5:8) concerning our responsibility to train up the next generation.  Have you heard, “The church is only one generation away from apostasy?” (Ju. 2:7-14)  Did you know we’re just as responsible for teaching our children as we are for learning (Dt. 11:18-21)?  Fathers, are you read to teach your children on the day they ask, “What do these things mean to you?” (1 Pe. 3:15; Ep. 6:4; Jos. 4:1-7)  We have a blatant responsibility to teach the next generation (Ps. 78:1-4).  Read Deuteronomy 4:9-10.  Can human words make the example more clear?   Teach the coming generation.

Let’s return to the above topic of Bible class.  It’s safe to assume every parent wants what’s best for their children.  We want them to have good schooling, decent clothes, straight teeth and the like, and we’ll do whatever it takes in most cases to make those things a reality.  I submit that if any parent wants what’s best for their child, they will make it so that child WILL be in Bible class.  You’ve got the Best People (God’s people) studying the Best Book (God’s book) on the Best Day of the Week (the Lord’s Day) with the Best Aim (learning more about God and how to be pleasing to Him).  Folks, it really doesn’t get any better.  We all need to pass on what we’ve learned from God’s Word by studying with posterity.

In closing, consider this.  Remember the caveats?  Studying God’s Word for strictly academic purposes without making everyday application forfeits the only real benefit (Lk. 6:46-49).  Most of us may have memorized 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  God-breathed scripture will teach you what’s right, reprove you for what you’re doing which is not right, correct you on how to get right, and train you on how to stay right.  However, for scripture to fulfill its purpose (Is. 55:11), you and I must be willing to be taught, reproved, corrected and trained.  We must want it.

Personal freedom is a God-given right (Jos. 24:14-15).  Almost all of our circumstances are dictated to us, by us, through the choices we make.  By and large, each of us in this country and in our current day and time can be as healthy or unhealthy, educated or ignorant, successful or unsuccessful, spiritual or hedonistic, as we choose to be.  We weigh the options, make the choice, and deal with the consequences (Dt. 11:26-28).

Ask yourself this.  What choices do I make?  When I have some free time, do I read my Bible in private study or choose to do something else?  Do I attend Bible classes for public study or choose just the worship service?  When a teachable moment arises, do I study with posterity by rising to the occasion to fulfill my duty to train the next generation…or is there an awkward silence followed by a change of subject?

I refer you to the question asked at the beginning of this piece:  “What does the church…collectively, congregationally, from the elders, deacons, and preachers to each and every member…need to do in order to become stronger and better in the sight of God in the present day?”  The key is the phrase “in the sight of God” (Ac. 4:19).  Nothing else really matters (Ec. 12:13).  We must be prepared to answer to Him (Ec. 12:14).  We will give an account about how we’ve applied or not applied His commands and teachings to our lives.  Be diligent to present yourselves approved (2 Ti. 2:15).

robertbedenbaughjr@gmail.com

Robert worships at the Seneca Church of Christ in Seneca, SC, with his wife, Heather, and their daughter, Savannah.

 

Editorial: “We Must Pay Much Closer Attention To What We Have Heard…” (July/August, 2015) – Jon Mitchell, Editor

A few years ago, during the Twilight craze that was sweeping the nation and the world and causing teen girls to violently debate the merits of “Team Jacob” versus “Team Whoever” (I can’t even remember the other guy’s name), I had the privilege to teach teens at Palmetto Bible Camp and later at a youth rally at a church in the Raleigh area. The lesson I gave at these events was probably very different from what the teens were expecting.

I started out each session by asking how many had seen Twilight (99% had), how many went to the midnight showing on opening night (again, 99%), and how many had read the books (99% of the girls had). From there I asked them to tell me the name of the female protagonist (immediately, 100% could), the name of the actress who played her (about 99% could), the names of both of her love interests (100% again), the actors who played them (99%), the name of the town and state in which the story was set (about 90% could answer this), the titles of each of the movies and books (100%), the name of the author of the books (95% could immediately answer this one), a summation of the plot of each book and movie (99% could do this off the top of their head), and how the books were different than the movies (about 90% could immediately answer this one.)

To give the long-suffering guys a chance to play, I asked them to name me their favorite professional athlete, his age, the position he played and the team for which he played, the stats concerning how well he played and the salary he earned, the stats about their favorite team’s standing in its particular league, their favorite video games, the plot of said game, their favorite movie, the star of that movie, the character he or she played, etc., etc. As with the girls, the overwhelming majority of the guys could answer these questions correctly off the tops of their heads.

I then asked how many of them were Christians. 99% raised their hands. I asked them if they loved Jesus (100%). I asked if Jesus was #1 in their lives (about 95% said yes to this; perhaps the remaining 5% could see where I was going with this by that point.)

I then asked them to quote for me John 3:16 and to tell me who said it and to whom he said it. About 40% could answer the first two questions, and none of them knew to whom Jesus was talking when he said that. I asked them to tell me what I must do to be saved. About 60% could tell me that I needed to hear God’s Word, believe in it, repent, confess my faith, and be baptized. However, when I then asked them to show me exactly where in the Bible I could find each of these commands, only 5% could show me right then and there. About another 5-10% could after a few minutes of searching.

I then asked them if they found worship services boring. About 80% raised their hands affirmatively. I asked them how many of them had jobs, and of those who did how many gave generously to the church every Sunday. Only about 1-2% raised their hands. I then asked them if they found Twilight or football boring, and if they would spend a generous amount of money to be a part of those events if given the chance. All of them raised their hands.  I then asked them if they thought God would want them in heaven with him for all eternity if they care more about a movie or a sport than about praising him and learning more about his Word. The point was made.

Adults who are reading this, perhaps you might be thinking something along the lines of These kids today… Well, may I pointedly but respectfully ask us this. How different are we from these teenagers, really? When I started the ministry in my early twenties, I thought I would be surrounded by brethren who was as excited and willing to discuss the Bible as I was. It didn’t take long for me to find out that starting a serious Bible discussion outside of the prescribed Bible class and worship times in the church building was as difficult as pulling teeth for quite a lot of Christians, most of them older than me. Yet, simply mention the name of a politician, sports team, or television show and I was guaranteed to have started a conversation that in many cases would last longer than the average Bible class or sermon! Fast forward 15 years, and not much has changed.

Parents, if we want our children and their children to grow to be faithful, active Christians and thereby go to heaven, it starts by following the prescription of Deuteronomy 6:6-7. However, in order to do that we ourselves must first have that same interest and habit.

It’s no accident that God told us that the righteous man who “is like a tree” and “who walks not in the counsel of the wicked” is one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-3), before very pointedly adding, “The wicked are not so” (v. 4). Brethren, our actions speak louder than our words. What consistently comes out of us in the form of our deeds speaks very loudly as to the true condition of our hearts (Mark 7:20-23). When we far more easily find delight and interest in topics other than the Bible and eagerly spend far more time focused on those things than on the Word, let’s not fool ourselves. We’re lying when we sing All to Jesus I Surrender and None of Self and All of Thee. We’re as lukewarm as the Laodiceans and as lacking of our first love as the Ephesians (Rev. 2-3). So let’s not be surprised if our kids feel the same way and are following in our footsteps.

Rather than sitting in judgment on them for sins we ourselves commit (Rom. 2:1, 17-24; Matt. 7:1-5), let’s humble confess our sins and repent (1 John 1:7-9; 2 Cor. 7:9-11) and then let God lead both us and our children in the right paths by spending more time studying his Word individually, as a family, as a church, and with the lost.

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Heb. 2:1)

Jon