Hello and Happy New Year! Thanks for having me here today! A couple of thoughts to open from a famous Christian! First:
You are in an enemy’s country-a stranger and a sojourner.
The world is NOT your friend. If it is – then you are not God’s friend, for he who is the friend of the world is the enemy of God.
When you sleep, contemplate that you are resting on the battlefield; when you walk, suspect an ambush in every hedge.
That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which GOD abhors.
With these words, Charles Spurgeon sets the tone for how we should RESOLVE our walk to be throughout the New Year indeed throughout LIFE as we strive to ‘walk the walk’ of a Christian! Certainly this New Year, we should consider a resolution more substantial than losing weight or quitting smoking, a resolution with ETERNAL consequences!! I want to give you an idea for one YOU can actually KEEP!! And its NOT too late!
Let’s look at two verses that deal with discipleship: 2nd Timothy 2:15 and Romans 12:2.
2nd Timothy 2:15 says, Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Romans 12:2 says, … be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what isthat good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
How we apply these verses is VITAL to us! Our understanding and knowledge of God directly affects our daily walk AS Christians! CALLING ourselves Christian requires nothing of us. BEING Christian is a different story.
The Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20 says Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. This commission is NOT just to missionaries and preachers but to each of us who Call upon the Name of The LORD!
I’m here today as a teacher/evangelist. In Scripture an elder in the local church may be called to be Pastor, preacher, teacher, or evangelist, as one who is APT to teach, but elders’ gifts vary and eldership begins when our hair turns gray but ends only when our very words are no longer remembered! The church has at least three and a half thousand years of teachers and preachers beginning with Moses, and two millennia of evangelists beginning with Peter and Paul! The congregants will put up with folks like me who are willing to come in and bring a message because it keeps the FORM of worship going while the search for a pastor goes on.
A supply cannot have expectations or require you all to pay close attention to what is said or that you actually be convicted of life changes that, at some point in our lives, we should ALL make! But the preacher doesn’t necessarily know you; nor have you given the preacher permission to be any form of accountability partner in your Christian walk. That’s a PASTOR’S place. For us the Sunday message has no teeth; no real expectation of a response from the congregation. Its our responsibility to bring a bit of the Commandments Jesus speaks of to you, principles of God for LIFE! At best we have just a hope you hear them. The Ten Commandments are some of those principles for living a Godly life, but continuity in the exposition of God’s Truth is not the highest priority at this time, keeping the doors open is. That said lets dive into something I pray you can use.
The Great Commission commands ALL of us who call Jesus Christ our Savior AND LORD, to go and teach all nations. Teach them WHAT? To observe all things whatsoever He has commanded US! So just exactly WHAT IS THAT? I bet you think it takes YEARS to detail them! Not really. The PRINCIPLES in today’s message apply to YEARS worth of details if YOU APPLY them! The principles of God’s Word APPLIED to the DETAILS of your life IS the Christian Walk!
Let’s look at three commands that really have to be done in a certain order. First you must STUDY. Study with a particular goal. Second you must RENEW YOUR MIND so you can prove some specific things about God. And third we are to TEACH others, anyone who is willing to listen, whatsoever He has commanded us, what isthat good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. As Christians these verses should be pretty familiar to all of us. Knowing what they say isn’t the problem, is it? No. The problem is APPLYING THEM in our lives! That’s just about always the problem, isn’t it?
I need to make one thing clear about the third command: Teach all nations. Yes, there is the missionary part of it where we send people all over the world. And that’s the easy part. BUT! There are also the neighborhood and AT HOME parts of it. The neighborhood part, the part where we are to be ready and willing to give ANYONE WHO WANTS TO KNOW, a REASON for the faith that lies within us is the PUBLIC example! The at home part is the example we set for our kids and our faithfulness in marriage both physical AND VERBAL! We’re to teach all nations BUT, It is counterproductive for Christians to try too hard to convince ANYONE who has NO INTEREST, that they NEED JESUS!
The term for that is beating someone over the head with a Bible! You cannot open their head and pour it in! THEY need to have a desire! How can we make Jesus Christ someone THEY want to KNOW? Perhaps we can’t! Because they have to have EARS to hear before they even WANT TO HEAR but their willingness, ladies and gentlemen, is what WE must be ready to take advantage of. If we’re not ready, then how can we teach TRUTH. How can we teach whatsoever Jesus has commanded, because the very thing that person NEEDS to hear could easily be the very thing we aren’t prepared for! Bear in mind that God IS merciful and can put us in touch with someone for whom we ARE prepared, BUT the more prepared WE are the more opportunities HE might provide! Right?
So preparation is a key: STUDY to show yourself approved unto GOD, a WORKMAN rightly dividing the word of TRUTH. That is why I titled this message ‘Study as a Workman NOT as a Student!’ Most of the people I know didn’t like school very much. They learned that STUDY was ‘read this and answer the questions’ or do these problems and show your work, or ‘write a THEME!’ and we really hated that. We learned to study like students: learn what you need to know to pass the test or write the paper, and then just forget it! Why do I need to know algebra, I’ll never use it in real life? Literature? Yuk! English? I already speak it what else is there to learn? Foreign languages, science, BIOLOGY, some stuff might be kind of interesting but really? Who cares!
A workman, on the other hand, has to learn to APPLY the things he(or she) learns every day in the performance of their duties, its their job. The better those things are learned, whether from books or teachers or just plain trial and error, the better they can be applied. The better you do your job the more you can earn and eventually you are helping younger, less experienced people, teaching others what you know! They come to you because you know what THEY NEED TO KNOW! You have reason and purpose helping bring others along because you know what’s expected, what’s the right way and the wrong way; the stuff that makes their life easier and their performance better. You become a valuable part of the world around you. That is the kind of Christian God wants US to be. He wants us to be of VALUE in His Kingdom.
Or you can be one of those who does just enough to get by. Never pushing yourself, never wanting more responsibility, just waiting for the buzzer so you can clock out and go home, DO YOUR OWN THING; the student who sees no benefit in really learning ANYTHING: a barely competent employee, NOT a workman, and maybe, not even really a good neighbor, a very LUKEWARM Christian, neither hot nor cold.
STUDY to show yourself approved unto God, a WORKMAN RIGHTLY dividing the WORD OF TRUTH! None of us gets there alone. That’s why God provided TEACHERS. Those who can HELP OUR effort in His Kingdom. NO ONE IS PERFECT. Even teachers can and do make mistakes and studying as a WORKMAN studies, can expose those mistakes and bring us all back to better understanding AND APPLYING the Word of Truth. Superficial, perfunctory, and CONCILIATORY effort will never Glorify our Lord! It produces nothing better than Lukewarm effects.
Second comes RENEWING YOUR MIND. Studying as a workman is both cause and effect. It causes the renewing of the mind just as exercise causes the renewing of long unused muscles and can be JUST as painful! You might actually have to CHANGE something you THOUGHT you KNEW! I mean we all know lots of stuff, problem is that at least SOME of it is just. plain. wrong!
Studying as a workman also has effect. Just as muscles get stronger through exercise, the effect of studying God’s Word as a workman increases the ability of the mind to THINK in the ways that Glorify the Lord. When you do a task repeatedly you develop muscle memory. The more you begin to THINK in ways that Glorify God, the more you are ABLE to think AND ACT in ways that glorify God. The goal stated is that we NOT be conformed to the WORLD but that we be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of our minds so that we may PROVE (that means show to the world) what IS that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Workmen who STUDY their jobs begin to understand WHY certain things MUST be done or understood in certain ways!
Others can benefit from the renewing of your mind, those who seek knowledge and understanding, your family. But the FIRST one to benefit from the renewing of YOUR mind is YOU! 1st Timothy 5:17-18 says, Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
So the principle in view here is that AS the ox works to tread the corn off the ears, it is free to eat as it works. The first to benefit from the labor of the ox is the OX! The context of the proverb from Deuteronomy quoted here refers to elders, especially those who labor in the WORD AND DOCTRINE, the teachers, are worthy of double honor. Many times, if not most, the church works under the assumption that ‘double honor’ means a good paycheck. Actually it is not money that is in view here because the reward for the ox is to eat what it needs and no more. No, money is not what this passage is about; its about giving honor to what the elders teach about the word of God even when we don’t like it. Even if it hurts. What they teach should be given SERIOUS attention and consideration by the rest of us. Twice as much as we give others who might have a NEW IDEA of how God wants us to live, think, OR BELIEVE. Any idea that is opposed to what has been taught for centuries should be met with healthy skepticism! You heard that correctly; at least twice as much deference should be paid to teachers of traditional doctrine as to those who have a newer idea or a different opinion about what the Word says church doctrine SHOULD BE. Those who want to change the plain teaching of the Word of God should have a VERY hard path. It is our DUTY to force THEM to PROVE that their NEW IDEA really IS that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God for His people and His WORSHIPout of GOD’S OWN WORD! BEFORE we consider changing historically accepted doctrine, THEY need to PROVE WE SHOULD! The only foundation for church doctrine is found in HIS Word and the writings of our elders who taught the application of it. It is NOT found in OUR FEELINGS no matter how strong those FEELINGS might be, nor in how compassionate we might WANT to be, not in some modern concept of social justice espoused by any politically correct movement that seems to have all the answers and scorns established doctrine, or even how much easier it would be to just avoid conflict with those who are taken in by THEM!
Could the elders of old or present day who devoted themselves to study of the word and doctrine be wrong? Absolutely! Nobody is perfect. Many have been wrong, and have been corrected over time! Many heresies have been exposed and corrected. Which is why if someone who sets themselves up to disagree with established doctrine, who fails to give its teachers double honor for their effort, or fails to show humility in their disagreement by PROVING beyond the shadow of a doubt where those doctrines, drawn from a plain reading of Scripture, are in error according to the WHOLE context of God’s Word, Not just a verse here or there, then they stand against what God Himself says is their duty to His appointed teachers AND TO HIM! We are NOT called to give credence to these people! Regardless of ease OR pain! Jesus didn’t, we shouldn’t! Here comes another principle! Being Humble does NOT mean being WEAK! Physically OR MENTALLY!!
Humility is one third of what God has said is required of HIS PEOPLE! Micah 6:8 says He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? As we try to fulfill the third command of Jesus, that we TEACH all nations, we are to walk HUMBLY with GOD! We aren’t called to be STUDENTS of the word, ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the TRUTH! We are called to study AS WORKMEN RIGHTLY DIVIDING IT! Study it, Yes! But as a workman not as a school boy. That means rightly understanding AND APPLYING it; understanding and applying it with every bit as much attention as you give to a JOB where your living is at stake. THIS is where your eternal reward is at stake! We must NOT view the study of God’s Word as some academic exercise we can be bored with or be graded on. Heaven is not an A on the exam! Jesus is the only one who EVER got better than an F! We must approach the Scriptures as a workman approaches the plans for a job. A JOB that is being performed to the glory of GOD! Plans that let us know the ONE Who Created US, Who We are Before Him, What is expected of us, What He has done for us because He LOVES us, What it means to love others as HE has loved us, and Why holiness is so vital to our ETERNAL LIFE.
We don’t know what Heaven will be like. We don’t know what WE will be like. But we can know one thing for sure. WE. WILL. BE. LIKE. HIM! What more could we desire? He gave HIS life so that we who have faith in His finished work of Salvation, can and will be WITH Him.
So if you love Him you will obey HIS commandments, NOT those of the world. You will study as the WORKMAN studies. You will no longer be conformed to this world but be transformed BY the renewing of your mind. Man does not live by bread alone. Nourish your mind as you, piece at a time, RIGHTLY divide the word of truth so that you ARE able to TEACH all nations what IS that good and acceptable and perfect will of GOD as He has Commanded us! Here is another thought from a famous Christian, A.W. Pink:
An honest heart does not fear the light. A sincere soul is willing to be searched by the Truth. If you are unable to endure now the feeble probing of one of His servants, How will it fare in a soon- coming day when the Lord Himself shall search you through and through?
O dear friend, give your poor soul a fair chance, be willing to ascertain whether your faith is real wheat, or only chaff.
If it proves to be the latter, there is still time for you to humble yourself before God and cry unto Him to give you saving faith.
But in THAT day it will be too late!
To Close this message, I must say that the quotes I have relayed to you today are from just 2 of the more recent men who, throughout church history, have dedicated their lives to labor in the WORD and DOCTRINE. Their work is worth double honor from us. Do I agree with everything some of these teachers have said or every opinion they have held? NO! In most cases truth be known its not so much what they said as the WAY they said it! They HAVE stepped on MY toes! BUT unless I can PROVE them wrong about anything, beyond doubt; that something they have taught is somehow NOT what the Word of GOD in Truth reveals to us, I MUST humbly respect THEIR teachings. Proving the truth of their teaching for myself OR Finding their error can only come as the result of studying as a WORKMAN and NOT as a student. Remember, God knows our heart and rejects NO ONE who comes to Him seeking Truth! NO! We are the ones who fear. We fear what HIS answer might BE! So He tells us over and over, Fear Not! Don’t just believe IN Him, BELIEVE HIM! His Truth and HIS correction are for our ETERNAL good.