Have you ever experienced a spiritual “high”? God seems so close, He’s guiding, your prayers are being answered, you’re talking with Him, you’re sensing His presence each day.
Then things change. Perhaps at first you don’t notice. But then God seems remote—silent—even cold—disinterested in your life and your plight. Your prayers go upward but bounce off the ceiling and land back on your head.
I venture to say every follower of Jesus Christ has walked down this road.
Let me tell you what happened to me. As a teenage boy, I sat in a church and heard a man preach the gospel. I was sitting by my father. When the invitation was given, my father went forward to give his heart to Jesus Christ. Conviction of the Holy Spirit struck my heart. I went forward also to give my heart to Jesus Christ. And I was as sincere as a young man could be. When I went forward, they filled out a form, stood me up in front of the church, and said, “Aren’t we grateful Adrian Rogers has come forward tonight to give his heart to Jesus Christ?”
All the people said, “Amen.” And that was it.
I went out and endeavored to live the Christian life. And I want you to know, as a young man I struggled and failed, struggled and failed, and rode a spiritual rollercoaster. Sometimes I was up; sometimes down. Sometimes I wondered if I had even been saved at all.
But then slowly I began to get into the Word of God. I began to study the Bible. I learned some truths. And when I learned some truth, that truth became a solid foundation I could stand on. My life was transformed. It didn’t come by resolution or emotion or determination, or strengthening my resolve, or just by toughing it out. I was transformed by the truth of the Word of God.
I want you as a believer in Jesus Christ—especially if you are a new Christian—to learn the factors of faithfulness that will help you stand strong and be the kind of follower of Jesus Christ who points others to Him, rather than away from Him. One who reflects glory upon our Lord. I want you to get off the spiritual roller coaster and stay off.
And the factor of faithfulness that is number one is Bible study.
1. Turn in your Bible to 2 Timothy 2:15. This is Paul’s last letter. He knows he has only a short time left. He writes to his beloved young disciple Timothy, who now pastors his own flock. This is his “parting shot” to Timothy. Among his words of counsel, Paul says:
15 _____________ to show thyself ________________unto God, a workman that needeth not to be _____________________, rightly dividing the W________ of ____________.”
That’s God’s command to you and to me through Paul and Timothy: that we’re to study the Word of God.
Do you want to live a holy life? Or is a life set apart to God something peripheral that you pick up and set down like a set of keys? Be honest.
2. Turn to John 17:17. This is nearing the end of our Lord’s ministry on earth. He is speaking to the Father—earnestly praying for all who would become His disciples and carry His name to the rest of the world. What does He pray?
a. 15 I pray _______ that Thou shouldest take them [that’s us] out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not ____ the world, even as I am not of ___ the world. 17 _______________ them through Thy ___________: Thy ___________ is truth. 18 As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
In v. 15, Jesus doesn’t want the Father to simply take believers out of the world at that time. From our perspective now of 2,000 years later, why did Jesus pray this?
b. What does He mean by saying we are “not of this world” (and neither was He)?
A CLOSER LOOK AT VERSE 17
In verse 17, the word “sanctify” has significant meaning. Let’s not pass over it lightly. Salvation has three parts or stages, if you will. They are: Justification à Sanctification à Glorification. They represent past, present and future. JUSTIFICATION: When you are born again, when you take Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, He JUSTIFIES you. That means He cleanses you from sin. You’ve heard me say before, “justified” means “just as if I’d” never sinned. Every sin you’ve ever committed is forgiven. Our sin is cast into the sea of God’s forgetfulness, and He’s posted a sign reading “NO FISHING.” You stand before God, completely justified—not because of anything you’ve accomplished, but solely because of Jesus’s death in agony and blood upon the cross. He has justified you if you’ve accepted that justification. “Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to Thy cross I cling.” This represents a moment in your PAST when you were saved. SANCTIFICATION: Now, the Holy Spirit within you actively begins to “sanctify” you. “Sanctify” or “sanctification” comes from the root “Sanct,” which means “holy.” A church worship center is often called a “sanctuary.” Someone who acts “sanctimonious” is acting “holier than thou.” To “sanctify” something is to set it apart for the special purpose it was designed for. We are created in God’s image and set apart by Him to have fellowship with Him and glorify Him forever. When we are being “sanctified,” the Holy Spirit is working in us and on us to make us holy. Our sanctification is taking place when—past, present, or future? ________________ If you wrote “present,” you are right. Right now, in this life, God is working within us both to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13) and to glorify Him. Now, no one is truly “holy” but God. However, He tells us in His Word to be holy, as He is holy ( Lev 11:44 ; Matt 5:48 ; 1 Peter 1:15-16 ). This is not a passive thing where we sit back and God does it all. We have an active role. We yield to His work in our lives. We submit our will to His. We study His Word. We commit to a local Body where we worship, are discipled and can disciple others. This is the present. GLORIFICATION: This happens once we are in Heaven (or are caught up to meet Him in the air at the Rapture). The Bible says, “When He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as he is” (1 John 3:2). We will see Him in His glory. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 the Apostle Paul said: 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord God the Holy Spirit is “working under the hood” in our lives every day, re-tooling us to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29), and we are in process (sanctification) until the day He appears, and we shall be like Him—glorification. Paul tells us we “will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:3). This is our glorious future.
4. In John 17:17, what is it that Jesus asks His Father to sanctify us by?
5. What does He says God’s Word is?
6. Turn to Hebrews 4:12, a very familiar passage:
For the Word of God is ________ , and ____________, and ___________ than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of ________ and _______, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the _____________ and intents of the __________.
How is the Word of God equipped to sanctify us (work on making us more like Jesus)?
Do you want to be sanctified? Do you want to be holy? Powerful in the Lord? Do you want to get off the spiritual roller coaster? Do you want spiritual steel and concrete beneath your feet? Then learn to be faithful in Bible study.
I want to give you FOUR THINGS I pray God the Holy Spirit will write upon your consciousness indelibly—etch upon your soul—so you will know, understand, and live by the Word of God.
1. RECEIVE THE SAVING AUTHOR OF THE BIBLE
To understand the Bible, you have to receive the Author of the Bible. God is the author. You must receive Him into your heart, because without Jesus Christ, you are spiritually blind.
You might dispute that. You may claim, “I can understand black print on white paper!” God says you can’t.
7. Turn to 1 Corinthians 2:14.
But the natural man [that is, a naturally born man or woman] receiveth _____ the things of the Spirit of God: for they are ___________________ unto him: neither can he _________ them, because they are _________________ ________________.
If you’ve only been born once, you are a natural person, born into the natural world, and blind to the spiritual world. You will never truly understand the Bible.
8. Now turn to 2 Corinthians 3:4 and see how these two passages compliment each other and enlighten us:
3 But if our gospel be ____, it is ____ to them that are _______: 4 In whom the god of ______ _________ hath ______________ the _________ of them which believe not, _______ the __________ of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should __________ ________ them.
You say you can understand the things of God without being born again. That you’ve “got it” —you just don’t agree?
That’s not what this passage states firmly! God is saying that Satan is the god of this world, and Satan has blinded the minds of “them that believe not.” Without Jesus Christ, the author of the Bible, in your heart, you will never understand the Bible. To try to help an unsaved person to truly understand the Bible would be like trying to teach a dog to understand opera. You just can’t do it. If you are not born again, you don’t have the ability to understand the Word of God.
I’ve shared before the classic story about the young Christians whose college professor loose a diatribe, mocking any student who believed the Word of God. Then he asked, “Is there anybody here now who says he believes the Bible is the Word of God?” Those in class who were Christians were intimidated, but one young man stood up in the back of the room and said, “Yes, sir. I believe the Bible is the Word of God.” The professor said, “Does it make sense to you?, I want you to know I’ve read the Bible and it doesn’t make any sense to me.” The young student said, “Sir, I don’t mean any disrespect, but the Bible is God’s love letter to His children. If you’ve read it and don’t understand it, it’s because you’ve been reading someone else’s mail.”
The Bible is God’s letter to us. To understand it, you must know the God of the Bible.
A lost person can read the Bible and appreciate it for it’s beautiful literature. I He might learn the history of the Bible. He might even agree with its moral precepts. But he will never know the deep meaning of God’s Word until he’s born again.
9. Turn to John 3. Remember Nicodemus, who came to Jesus under cover of night? He was a master in Israel, a brilliant man, but he couldn’t understand. And the reason he couldn’t understand is, he had not been born again. Follow the conversation between Nicodemus and the Lord Jesus:
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night and said unto Him, “Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with Him.” 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot ____ the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus saith unto Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, ‘Ye must be born again.’ 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
a. In v. 3, what did Jesus say Nicodemus could not do?__________________
10. Once Christ is in your heart, you begin to pray. Never come to Bible study without praying. Turn to Psalm 119:12.
“…___________ me Thy ______________.”
When you lay your intellectual pride in the dust and pray this prayer over the Word of God, three things will happen:
(1) Your eyes will be opened.
12. Turn to Psalm 119:18
18 Open Thou mine _______, that I may ___________ wondrous things out of Thy ______. God will help you see things you have never seen. I can tell when I am walking in the Spirit when I’m reading the Word of God: truths just jump up off the Bible into my heart.
(2) Your heart will be stirred.
13. Skip down to verse 36:
36Incline my ___________ unto Thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
God inclines your heart. First you see, then your heart will be moved.
(3) Your mind will be enlightened.
14. Continue to verse 73:
73 Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me _____________________, that I may learn Thy commandments.
To sum it up: You have the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart. You have received Him. God gives you a new heart. You come to the Word and pray, “God, teach me Your statues. Open my eyes. Stir my heart, quicken my mind.” Never fail to study the Bible that way. It’s unthinkable to me that I would sit down for a serious study of the Word of God without first of all asking the author of the Word of God to teach me. You can ask God Himself to teach you His Word.
2. RECOGNIZE THE SOVEREIGN AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE
Once you know the author, you must believe the authority of the Word of God. The Bible will never be a real book to you if you do not accept it as the sovereign, authoritative Word of Almighty God.
15. Turn to 2 Timothy 3:16. The Bible is a literary miracle.
______ scripture is given by __________________ of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE WORD “INSPIRATION” The word used here inspiration (“theopneustos”) is used only ONCE in the entire Bible! Just this one time. It literally means “God-breathed.” All Scripture is God-breathed, given by inspiration of God. Now, this does not mean that God “breathed into” the Scriptures, but “breathed out.” God breathed the Scriptures themselves. The Bible says all Scripture is the breath of God. When you read the Bible, you are hearing God speak. All Scripture, not some Scripture. That’s the reason we believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible.
Verbal means every word.
Plenary means full.
Theologians call it the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible, meaning all of the Bible is fully inspired. There’s no part of it that is not inspired. 3,808 times you read phrases like this in the Bible— “The Word of God came unto me” “The Lord said” “God spake” “Thus saith the Lord.” Now either the Bible is the Word of God or it is the biggest bundle of lies the world has ever known.
16. It is the bread of life. Turn to Matthew 4:4.Jesus Christ said,
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by __________ ______ that proceedeth out of the __________ of God.”
The Word comes from the mouth of God. Human beings wrote it, but they wrote it by divine inspiration. God Himself inspired the penman.
You may say, “If God wrote it, why doesn’t it all sound alike? Why do parts of it sound so different?”
Because God used different people! It’s like an orchestra. Suppose a musician, who plays a number of instruments, picks up a trombone and plays it, then picks up a clarinet and plays it, then a flute, then an oboe…you would be able to tell the characteristics of those different instruments. A trumpet would sound like a trumpet, and a French horn like a French horn, a coronet like a coronet, and an oboe like an oboe, but there’s one musician who’s playing all the instruments. It’s the same with the Bible. Different men were used to pen the Word of God. You pick up your Bible and you can say, “Yes, that’s Paul. Yes, that’s Matthew. Yes, that’s Moses.” Those are just the different instruments God used.
The Bible, interpreted by the Holy Spirit, not human reason, not your conscience, is the final, sovereign authority for life.
3. RESOLVE A SERIOUS ANALYSIS OF THE BIBLE
It’s not enough to say “God is the author, and it’s authoritative.” Fine. But you must learn to study and analyze the Bible. Bring your mind to the Bible, even as you lay your intellectual pride in the dust at the same time.
17. Turn to 1 Timothy 4:13. Paul said,
Till I come, ______ ________________ to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
That’s another way for Paul to say, “show up and pay attention.”
We began our study with this 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show yourself approved unto God.”
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE WORD “STUDY” I looked up this word “study” in a number of Bible translations. Here are some of the ways study is translated.In the argin of your Bible at 2 timothy 2:25, you may want to write some of them:
“Do your best.”
“Let it be your care.”
All these are saying you must have a burning desire for the Word of God.
18. Turn to Psalm 119:72.
“The _____ of Thy __________ is better unto me than thousands of _______ and ___________.”
Do you really want to know the Bible? Would you rather know the truth of God’s Word or be a multi-millionaire? Answer that question in your heart.
19. Back to the 2 Timothy 2:15 passage, look at the last phrase:
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, ___________ ______________ the _______ of __________.
A CLOSER LOOK AT “RIGHTLY DIVIDE” “Rightly divide” literally means “cut straight the word of truth.” It comes from the Old Testament, when the priest would divide a sacrifice, cutting it straight and carefully, as it was presented to God. You must treat the Word of God the same way. You need to learn how to rightly divide the Word of God. Don’t bring your ignorance to the Word of God, but study the Bible.
Don’t claim you believe the Bible is the Word of God unless you have a desire to understand it.
Do you believe everything you read in the newspaper? I doubt you do. But how many more minutes do you spend with the newspaper every day than you do with the Word of God? You spend more time with something you don’t believe than what you say you do believe.
You spend more time with the bad news than you do with the good news. You say, “Yes, I know the author of the Bible. Yes, I believe the authority of the Bible.” But you make no analysis of the Bible. You don’t study the Bible.
You must open the Bible and do as the apostle Paul said, “Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine.” There’s no other way you’re going to get it. If you’re looking for a cheap, easy, lazy way to understand the Bible, you’re not going to understand it.
Let me give you three very common things to help you to analyze the Bible:
All of the Bible is for us, but not all of it is to us. Here’s an example:
20. Turn to 1 Corinthians 10:32. Paul says,
“Give none offense, neither to the _______, nor to the ____________, nor to the ____________ of God.”
Everyone in the world is divided into those three categories: the Jews, the Gentiles, and the church of God. As you begin to study the Bible, you need to ask: Is this written to the Jew? Or is it written to the Gentile? Or is it written to the church? If you don’t understand which one, you’ll be confused. in the Old Testament, you might take promises or instructions that belong to Israel and try to apply them to the church.
For example, the Old Testament Sabbath, Saturday, was given to Israel, not to the church. God says, “It is a covenant between Me and the children of Israel forever.” It’s not for you. The Old Testament Sabbath is Saturday. Sunday is the Lord’s Day. Sometimes people apply to the church Old Testament truths that were meant for Israel, and they get confused in their Bible study. It is all for us, but it is not all to us.
That doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to understand or read it. Of course we are, because within this, there are lessons we can learn, rightly understood, that will apply to us, but we have to understand how to rightly divide the word of truth.
You have to understand the difference between the church (the bride of Christ, those saved after Calvary) and the kingdom of God (all of God’s creation in all time, through all eternity). You have to understand the difference between law and grace. You have to cut it straight, and there’s no quick and easy way to do that.
Read any passage in its context. Don’t just do a “lucky dip”—throw your Bible open and begin to read. No wonder you say, “It doesn’t make sense to me.” If you read any book that way, it wouldn’t make sense to you. It is written systematically. Read it systemically. Otherwise, you can make the Bible say anything. Like this:
Did you know the Bible says there is no God? It does (Psalm 14:1), but that’s only part of the verse. The entire verse reads, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” Context is everything. If I take just part of a verse, I could claim just about anything.
(2) COMMON SENSE
When you read the Bible, don’t check your brains at the door. Read poetry as poetry, prose as prose, prophecy as prophecy, promise as promise, parable as parable, and precept as precept.
Now that when the Bible speaks, sometimes it uses metaphors, figures of speech, and symbolism.
Sometimes people ask, “Do you take the Bible symbolically or literally?” The answer is, “Yes!” I take it literally. But that doesn’t do away with symbolism.
For example, in the book of Revelation, Satan is described as a red dragon with a tail that sweeps a third of the stars from heaven. That’s not literally what Satan is; that’s symbolic of what Satanis like.
But since there’s symbolism, does that mean I don’t believe there’s a literal devil? Of course not. There’s a literal devil. Symbolism doesn’t do away with a literal interpretation. What you do is find out what the symbol stands for, and then you literally believe that the thing it symbolizes exists.
When you look at a passage of Scripture, think!
Read it through.
Think it clear.
Write it down.
Pray it in.
Live it out.
Pass it on.
Then it will be yours.
If you don’t do that, you cannot expect to understand the Bible. Analyze the Word.
In summary, there must be a serious analysis of the Word of God in its context, using common sense and concentration with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
4. RESPOND WITH A STEADFAST APPLICATION OF THE BIBLE
If you read and study the Bible but don’t apply it, it’ll backfire on you. Inspiration without obedience will cause the Word of God to sour on you like food you eat but don’t digest. You must put these things into practice.
21. Turn to John 14: 21. The Lord Jesus Christ is speaking:
“He that hath My commandments and ______________ them, ___ it is that _____________ Me, and he that loveth Me shall be _________ of ____ __________,, and I will love him, and will _______________ Myself to him.”
In other words, “If you have [study, receive,] My commandments, and you keep [obey] them, You love me.”
Don’t sing, “O How I Love Jesus” if you’re not receiving and keeping His commandments. To love God the Son is to hear His commandments and keep them.
Many of you are thinking, “Pastor Rogers, Jesus Christ is not real to me. I wish He were real to me. Why are some people so happy in Jesus, and God is very real and precious to them? He is not to me.”
Look again: “He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me, and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.”
If you don’t grasp anything else from this study, gasp this: Bible study gives you knowledge about God. Obedience gives you knowledge of God.
You can study the Bible and learn about God or You can obey the Bible and know God.
Appropriate and act on the truths of God’s Word, and I promise you, this Bible will become real. It will become a brand new book to you.
As new Christian, I started out with a lot of sentiment and sincerity, but I floundered and floundered until I studied to learn Bible truth.
It’s simply not enough for you to listen to sermons. Fruit you pick yourself is the sweetest. The flowers you gather yourself you enjoy the most. Study the Word of God.
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